A Surreal Evening

In this blog I intend to write about the intersection of high school science education, politics, and my crazy life (aren’t they all crazy?).  However, the following story isn’t what I imagined that I would write as my first post if I ever started a blog.  Nevertheless, I guess that it manages to target my goals perfectly.  It’s a little long, but here goes:

A surreal evening.  I’m in Washington, D.C., for a workshop on assessment in science education.  With the workshop done — a wonderful experience, by the way — I decided to wander around the Mall area because, well, I thought I should.  My first stop after leaving the Metro was the White House.  Ho hum.  A lot of people taking photos.  I took a picture of Lafayette’s statue.  Afterward, I wandered down toward the Washington Memorial.  I had a general goal of making it to the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and Korean War Veterans Memorial.  Old, important-looking buildings along the way.  Hmm.  Lots of police.  Lots of construction underway.  Enhh.  The Washington Memorial seemed taller than I remembered as a kid.  Ok.  Next, a pretty fountain with state names around it (sorry, don’t know what this is called).  Humm.  Mostly, I was thinking, The Capitol squirrels sure are looking well-fed; guess their economy is pretty good.  I eventually made my way to the Lincoln Memorial and took a few photos.  I was pleased by the happy, excited voices of the visitors.  Nice.  Yeah, I guess I’ll go up and see Lincoln.  Beautiful statue, kind of like I remembered.  Nice.  At this point, I was thinking, Why am I doing this?

Then, I saw Lincoln’s words on the side wall to the left of Lincoln.  I hadn’t remembered this.  This looks important.  I should take the time to read this.  It was from the Gettysburg Address.  Wow.  “It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced… that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  Yes!  That’s people.  Not corporations.  PEOPLE.  I thought about how there are again two sides in this country, fighting a war of rhetoric, money, and evolving protests.  I then wandered to the other side of Lincoln.  Double wow.  It was his second inaugural address.  His words spoke to my faith, my deepest beliefs.

I stepped into the memorial book shop, a few feet away.  A book of Lincoln’s words immediately caught my eye, and I bought it, along with a postcard of President Obama (Hey!  It’s Lincoln that paved the way for his presidency, right?).

Right now, I sit in the Post Pub, L Street NW, and this book of Lincoln’s words is the very book in which I scribble down my thoughts, using a pen borrowed from my waiter.  I hope that Lincoln wouldn’t mind.

After I left the book shop, I found a quiet spot on the memorial steps to sit and think.  What should I take away from this?  How should I deal with my anger toward Republicans?  What am I supposed to do with my feelings of hopelessness in defeating the overwhelming interests of money in this country’s government?  Am I, perhaps, on the wrong side?  Am I just naïve?

And, the one thought that came clearly to my mind, unbidden, was “Seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).”   Yes… That is what I am supposed to do.  That fits who I am.  I can still be angry, I can still seek justice, but there’s a humble way to do this, just like Lincoln said.

I left the steps, and I sought the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  The Korean War Veterans Memorial was eerily vivid in the dark.  You could imagine the soldiers popping in and out of the darkness.  The MLK Memorial was under preparation for the ceremony this weekend.  The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was moving for its beauty alone, but its seemingly countless names grabbed my heart.  As I wandered from powerful vision to powerful vision, I pondered the meaning of Micah’s words for my life.

I was leaving the last names behind me in the dark, when my cell phone rang.  It was my wife.  She and my 18-year old son had had to get out of the house and leave my 16-year old son behind.  Oh no… What has he done now?  As I found my way in the dark toward the Washington Memorial, the BIG bread crumb of my path home, I alternately talked with my wife, my younger son, and my older son.  Apparently, my younger son (Trouble) had started a fight with my older son.  It would be inappropriate for me to go into the reasons for the fight, but the police had been out to our house (again).

Our sons are adopted — they moved in when they were 8 and 10 — and on difficult days our goals for them have been rather modest.  For the 18-year old, our hope has been that he would one day be able to live on his own.  For the younger one, we simply hoped that he would stay out of jail.  It was another one of those days, which thankfully don’t occur as often as they did a year or two ago.  I soon found myself sitting directly below the Washington Memorial, with a clear view of the White House in the distance, on the phone with my older son, helping him work through his conflicted, angry emotions.  Yes, surreal.

It was then 8 o’clock, and I hadn’t eaten since lunch.  I left the memorials and walked to the area north of the White House, hoping to find a Middle Eastern restaurant.  No luck.  The kabob places were closed, and I finally settled on a pub.  A pub atmosphere seemed comforting and comfortable.

Well, done with dinner.  Almost done with my Guinness (not my first).  Time to find the nearest Metro station.  In our country’s capitol.  The White House mere blocks away.  Surreal.


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