A moment

[Note: I started this post right after Charlotteville but kept holding back on sharing it as I worried I was rambling too much and missing facts and in general not making sense but I still feel the need to share so here it is.]

I often struggle to put into words what I feel at times like this. I tend to keep politics off this blog but every once in awhile, I feel the need to comment. I have a hard time saying what I want to say though articulately and in a way that doesn’t just sound like an impassioned outburst of emotions rather than something thought through logically with facts. But I’m not sure I can do that for this one.

A woman died over the weekend. She was my exact age. She died because she was standing up and speaking out when she saw something was not right. I wish I was more like her. I find myself often tongue tied with the current state of affairs. So sunk in rage and depression and shame I retweet articles rather than write my own. Others seem to be much better equipped to say what I feel in my heart and know in my mind. But if she could do it, stand in the actual face of the problems of our country, the least I can do is write about it from my safe desk in my safe apartment.

This is not normal. John Oliver asked us to remember that after the election last year. I find I say it to myself daily as I watch the news, read the tweets and watch in disbelief as our country becomes the worst parody of itself. America and its democracy have always been a double edged sword; freedom of speech means freedom for everyone, even those you would spend your life screaming about how wrong they are. But you can scream and so can they. It is when one side begins to take action to limit the other from speaking that we have our problem. However, in the case of Charlotteville, unlike our president’s opinion apparently, I stand firmly in the camp that that sort of speech, the speech meant to incite hatred and violence, is wrong and should not be protected. There are very clear sides in this case and only one side that is right. We have fought wars, American men and women have died, over this sort of hate and now it’s apparently being tolerated by our administration on our own soil.

I find I must admit I just do not have it in me to understand. How can you have that much hatred for people you have never met simply because they look or believe something different from you? How can this group of people, arguably the most privileged¬†in the world, feel that disenfranchised? That under attack? That scared? I know I come from an extreme place of privilege, the one tick against me being my gender, so I always try to remember that as I process things like this. But no, I’m sorry, there can only be one response which is both logical and emotional…THIS. IS. WRONG.

Wrong on so many levels, I cannot begin to delineate¬†them. These are people who are living their lives, trying to raise their families and move ahead in the world, same as you and me. They have done nothing to you. The problem is not them, it is you and whatever twisted path you walked to come to this point. I am sure you have excuses. They are lame. This behavior is inexcusable and perhaps worst of all to you, un-American. We are supposed to be the land of the free, the home of the brave. The land that takes in those who cannot find refuge elsewhere. Our country would not be what it is today without the many immigrants and outcasts that have found a place to call home on our shores. This used to be something we celebrated. When did it become something we were ashamed of, something we wanted to forgot or actively denounce? In making that reputation for ourselves, we made mistakes. We have never been as free as we liked the world to think. There have always been caveats. We’ve closed our doors to certain groups out of fear, bigotry, pride in the past and we’re doing so again. Perhaps what history should teach us better than most is there is no closing the door. No going back to an isolated existence. The world is at our doorstep and the doorbell is going to keep ringing.

Ironic in many ways that those who marched this weekend may be descendants of those who were once shunned as immigrants in those earlier waves. Those greeted with signs of “No Irish.” My ancestors were. What happened over the weekend was about more than immigrants or racism or gender or religion or sexual preference. It was about a bunch of people who are scared and therefore want to make sure everyone else is scared with them. That fear and ignorance and willful hatred helped last November happen. So, I will not be scared. I will be angry that we allowed this to happen and fight to make sure we do better, that we are better. But I will not let them scare me. They are wrong and they will not win.

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Visiting TJ’s crib and my weekend last week

Last weekend, I ventured out of DC on a road trip of sorts with two of my fellow interns. We went down to Charlottesville to see Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s homestead and to see the campus of the University of Virginia, TJ’s brainchild in his later years. First off, we took the scenic route to get there. We were so involved in looking out for southern fast food joints that we need to try, we missed our first exit. No big though, after a stop so Matt and I could try our first Chik-fil-A sandwiches (which was delicious but I am not a sweet tea fan), we went the long way to Charlottesville. It was a picture perfect day. After being complete tourists and stopping at a “scenic view” stop on the highway for our first good look at the Blue Ridge Mountains, we arrived at Monticello. We got our tickets for the house tour and then took the bus up to the house. First off, TJ knew how to pick a spot. He had a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and more land than he knew what to do with. We started out with the Plantation walking tour. Bob, our guide, was very knowledgeable about the daily life on the plantation in Jefferson’s time. He mainly discussed the lives of the slaves on the plantation and focused a lot on the Hemings family. I did like that they were very upfront on the fact that Jefferson definitely fathered at least one, if not all of Sally Hemings’ children. DNA cannot lie of course. But that wasn’t the focus of the tour, it was a walk down Mulberry Row and where the nailery and joinery would have been located. I liked the storytelling aspect of the tour but Bob was a bit long winded.

After the tour, we headed down to the graveyard and saw Jefferson’s grave. Very different from the tomb of the Washingtons. It was sort of a mini-Washington monument. After taking our pictures of the headstone, we walked back up the hill and wondered about for awhile. I love the look of the house. Jefferson was an amateur architect and designed Monticello himself. All his travel in Europe meant he tried a lot of things at Monticello that hadn’t been seen in the States yet at the time. The all-weather tunnel running under the house, the design on vents from the cellar into the house as a sort of pre-electricity air conditioning system. We chilled in the garden for a bit and then went to get in line for our house tour.

This was the best part of the day for me. If I ever design a house, I want Monticello. First off, his library was an extension of his “study” which led into his bedroom with a very cool alcove bed that was a running theme in the house. Best use of space was Jefferson’s goal for the entire house so he came up or brought back from Europe all these “space saving” elements. Like, in his bedroom, his bed is between his study and the room but his closet is above his bed, accessible only by a ladder. A lot of his doors folded into the walls so they didn’t take up space in the room. He had a fabulous “tea room” that I would have gladly lived in and the guest bedroom had another alcove bed for best use of space. Overall, I loved the house tour. Our tour guide (who’s name I have sadly forgotten) was amazing – telling all the great stories but not being over-tedious. After the tour, we walked back down to our car (all down hill) and headed back towards Charlottesville to find food.

We found the main downtown district which is chock full of used bookstores – great and bad at the same time. I escaped with only one book so I was impressed with myself. After a quick dinner, we hopped on the free trolley and rode over to UVA. It is a good thing I never came to look at this campus, I would have had to come to a school that is huge but has the most beautiful campus I have ever seen. Seriously, I would live on it now. We got caught in a storm however so we cut our tour of campus short and headed back toward the car. Once back, the rain had stopped so we took a driving tour of campus instead. We found the stadium to take pictures as well. Heading back to Washington, we were treated to a fabulous sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Breaking what I am sure was quite a few laws, we pulled over to take picture which I think are my best yet this summer. It was a great trip though, full of lots of fun. I really enjoyed seeing the house at Monticello and UVA.

That was Saturday. On Sunday, I did a mini-museum marathon. I started at the Freer Gallery (Asian art with Whistler thrown in for good measure), the Sackler Gallery (more Asian art) and the Hirshorn Museum (Modern art). All three are lesser knowns in the Smithsonian family. I really enjoyed the Hirshorn actually which surprised me – I am not much of a modern art fan but they have a fabulous exhibit right now, temporary, on cinema art which was very interesting to walk through and take all the different films in and what they are trying to convey. After the museums, I walked through the Castle (now a visitor’s center) and paid my respects to Smithson’s tomb before I headed over to the National Botanical Gardens. I had done the outside gardens earlier in the week but the Conservatory closed too early for me to go after work. I liked this a lot – the big greenhouses host different areas of the world – jungle, desert, forest, endangered species. In the jungle greenhouse, they have a canopy walk which was a lot of fun to go through with the mist going off every few minutes, making you think you’re actually in the jungle (for about a second, but hey, atmosphere is everything). That was pretty much my Sunday. Next post, this week and my weekend plans…