Views of the USA (2)

Washington DC

Il se peut que certains, surtout américains, soient un peu irrités par un étranger qui prétend pouvoir écrire quelque chose de valable sur les Etats Unis, seulement après une visite brève de trois semaines. Ils auraient raison d'être agacés, car personne n'est capable de mettre en valeur ainsi un si grand pays, sans y avoir vécu véritablement, au moins pour quelques années.
Mais l'objectif de ce petit hommage n'est pas d'informer comme s'il était un carnet de voyage. Il s'agit d'essayer de donner un croquis d'un trajet triangulaire, y intégrant quand même certaines informations, mais surtout en y ajoutant des
expériences, des impressions, des sentiments, des opinions et des vues (aussi en images) personnels. 
A mon humble avis le monde, et certainement l'Europe, ont toujours beaucoup à apprendre de positif des Etats Unis. 

If you go to Washington DC, and see the monuments there, you won't find party politics. If you go to the Air and Space Museum, or the Freer gallery in the Mall, (founded by autodidact Charles Lang Freer) you won't find party politics.

And what a contrast in relation to bubbling, busy, ever-evolving, sky-defying New York City! A good contrast, for in sedate and stable Washington DC one naturally steps back and takes time to reflect on the past. One pays one's respects to the fallen and the great, objectively, devoid of any political consideration, in keeping with the principles of a real democracy.

By the Vietnam Memorial there were two or three veterans kind enough to allow themselves to be photographed. I asked one how he felt, if he still harboured negative sentiments, feeling immediately stupid for asking such a question. But he seemed to understand. He just shook his head and quietly said 'no'. Then I blurted out my diehard conviction that 'there's a reason for everything,' to which he replied, this time totally convincing me that he understood, 'yes, there is, but you only find that out later', which I thought was an admirable example of wisdom, humility and strength. The sober truth coming from an old soldier who has been to hell, but was strong enough to return intact, having managed to survive the horror of it all.

It was a pleasure to return to the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. I visited this museum for the first time many years ago. Obviously a great deal of technological progress has been made since then, especially regarding electronics, digital technology and image resolution in all fields. But after so many years, when once more I saw the film 'To Fly', produced in 1976 and directed by Jim Freeman and Greg MacGillivray- who also assisted in writing the script- I saw with pleasure that it was just as fresh as when I first saw it. Imagine then what an impact it made in the seventies and eighties, because for its time it's technically brilliant, and will always remain æsthetically moving and poetical. The essence of all masterpieces.

There were many other new additions in the museum, including an enormous Google world that by means of a console you can turn, zoom down into any country, to even follow its roads and guage its landscapes. Eventually they will be able to zoom down to the image of Earth from images of the outer solar-system, to live traffic, individual houses, gardens, children in playgrounds, blades of grass bending in the breeze, etc.
Yet technology also depends on necessity. When I was young it was thought that by the year 2000 everyone would have their own private means 'to fly', and defy gravity.
Flight evolution from the Wright Brothers' kite-like flying machine to the jet fighter only took forty years, but had there not been the necessity, determined by two World Wars, it would have taken far longer. No doubt the same applies to energy. Whilst there's fossil energy and the world's economy depends on it, evolves around it, even our so called 'ecologists' will go along with the idea that there's no urgent necessity to abandon it in favour of electronic power. But this certainly won't always be the case. It also stands to reason that necessity will eventually solve the nuclear energy problems, but I'm digressing, up in the clouds drifting away in my own private balloon, dreamily looking down on 'Google Earth'.

The monuments in Washington do credit to their creators perhaps just as much as they do to those they are commemorating. The Martin Luther King Memorial is a fine example, as is of course the equally timeless Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials.

Washington appears to be a clean white city for calm, moderate reflection. It's peaceful and respectful, but it's also the Capital where world important and determining decisions are made. There in the White House, obviously one is duty bound to apply national and international politics.

Yet patriotism in the USA is generally apolitical, and most Americans are patriotic whatever their origin. In many parts of Europe and certainly in France, one would be considered virtually a fascist if one dared show such patriotic zeal. Indeed it seems that we Europeans have hang-ups, or as they say in France, on est coincé. And it's true.

As it is in the USA, it should also be considered a privilege to become nationalised in a European country, so why shouldn't those who wish to do so, make a solemn commitment in return for this privilege? Yet such a suggestion would be regarded as scandalous by the 'politically correct', and one is left wondering where our values have gone, where are the solid, democratic principles that our forefathers fought and died for?
Text and photographs © Mirino (PW). Fine top photograph of the Jefferson Memorial, by Joe Ravi, with many thanks. The Capitol. Portrait of Charles Freer (founder of the Freer Gallery) by Whistler. The Vietnam Memorial. The Martin Luther King Memorial. The Lincoln Memorial. The White House.   With thanks also to Wikimedia Commons.  July, 2013

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