Today is a very important day to be an American citizen.
Today we’re tasked with the responsibility of choosing the person who will lead us through the next four years; who’s values will shape us as a country and set the bar for our relationship with the rest of the world. It’s been a rough election season; the vitriol and hatred spewing from the followers of the two candidates running this year has been unacceptably disrespectful; it’s been hard to want to be part of the process when you see the increasingly toxic commentary littered across social networking sites and in conversations overheard every where you go.
The candidates themselves represent the giant gulf between the ideologies of their followers; regardless of who wins the election a substantial portion of America will not have their beliefs and values represented. It’s something you just have to accept gracefully as part of the process- though I doubt there will be any grace coming from the party who’s candidate doesn’t win.
I spent most of today walking around Washington DC, checking out the monuments and thinking a lot about the politics of my century. I was sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Monument watching my fellow tourists take pictures of his statue and I started thinking about his most famous speech. I wandered over and read it-
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. 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. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
-Abraham Lincoln, the Gettysburg Address, Thursday, November 19, 1863
I felt an amazing swell of pride, being an American. We take our lumps both in and out of this country, but for every misguided leader that we’ve suffered, we’ve had George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. They weren’t perfect men, but they were the perfect men for their time. It made knowing that I had the right and the responsibility of voting when I returned back to Philly something to be proud of. Something I get to do, not something I have to do. When I stepped foot in the voting booth I did what I hope you did- I voted my conscience. I didn’t vote for the perfect candidate; I didn’t vote for a catch phrase or a slogan or an idea- I voted for myself. For what I believe and what I hope my country will believe.
If you’ve never been to DC- do it. It’s awe inspiring. I could have spent all day wandering around; I saw more than I expected to see but missed out on the White House, on getting lost in the Smithsonian… I guess I’ll have to go visit again soon.
The trip was a short one and unlike my normal little daytrips had an agenda. Two weeks ago when I went up to NYC, my friend Alissa invited me down to DC to accompany her to see Henry Rollins perform. While I’m a fan of his BLACK FLAG years, I’ve never been that into his spoken word stuff. But the prospect of spending a day with Alissa- who I love like family- was worth putting up with Hank’s rhetoric for two hours. I’m not really a planner and had no idea where the show was going to be held; as we were walking to the venue Alissa had me google directions and I realized that it was going to be at the 930 Club where my old friend Josh works. Two friends in one visit. I saw Josh a few months ago at the Lucero show, but this was my first time seeing him on his own turf. He was very gracious to Alissa and I and made our show much more fun than we had anticipated. And loathe as I am to say it- I even enjoyed Henry’s performance. There was the expected ‘night before the election’ rhetoric, but a lot of his points (including a nice little bit on how Punk Rock Abe Lincoln was) really resonated with me.
Usually I’m not an overthinker. But this trip really had an impact on me in ways I couldn’t have expected and that’s not a bad thing. As always, I’m so glad to have the friends in my life that I do.
Photo: Street Art and Lincoln Memorial. (inset)