We have spent the last two days wandering the sites of Washington DC- from museums, to the Capitol, to the National Mall, to seeing the Declaration of Independence, to the White house (Jed Bartlett for president!!), to the Library of Congress, to the Kennedy Performing Arts Centre. It has been a very touristy two days. Walking through the grand, awe-inspiring buildings at the centre of power of the US empire I am struck by the contradictions of this nation’s history (and present). Everywhere we turn is another slogan about a nation built upon freedom and equal rights for all and liberty and justice. The rhetorical pillars of this empire. Yet we would then hear or read, often almost as a side-note, of the many slaves who built the Capitol building (and built much of the empire), of the absolute genocide of the indigenous peoples, of a nation built upon war after war after war. All of this justified by slogans such as “the cost of independence and freedom.”
The juxtaposition of the rhetoric of ‘freedom for all’ and the reality that is, is stark. Black and White stark.
Of course I am not saying anything new here and of course America has brought great things to the world. It just stands strong in my mind as we walked this magnificent city. Seeing ‘Occupy’ protestors and police at the Martin Luther King (MLK) Jnr. Memorial, seeing the beauty and hardships of the American Indian peoples at the Museum of the American Indian (Which you MUST go to if you ever get to DC!). Seeing the homeless sleeping under coverings as we walked the city streets past the glamour and glorious magnificence of the buildings. I wonder about freedom and power and war and responsibility. I wonder about the many people who have begged me for money since being in the US (some I have given money to and others I have ignored). I wonder about Australia’s history and our rhetoric. I hear of the NT intervention being extended. I wonder if empire can exist without the domination of one people over another.
I wonder about my own rhetoric and reality and the incongruency that lies within.
As we rode our bikes along the path of the National Mall, down past the Washington memorial, past the Lincoln memorial, past the WW2 memorial all the way down to the MLK memorial I wondered what he would have thought. What Would Martin Luther King Do? WWMLKD? A quote on his memorial summed it all up for me…
We are all tied together in this world. We are one whether we like it or not. May I remember this in all my actions.
May my own rhetoric and reality merge as one.