Every so often you have an experience to remind you that America is still America. This weekend was one of those times.
On Saturday, I was taking a group of international students on a tour of the Mall in Washington, D.C. when I was confronted by a display I had never seen before. As I was moving us on from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, I was greeted by a very imposing site.
In front of me was a large area of fountains, pillars, walls and monuments. This area was in front of the currently drained Reflecting Pool that fronts the Lincoln Memorial.
I was duly impressed by the size of the display. It truly symbolized the epoch scale of the conflict of the Second World War.
As I examined the site, I passed on what I was learning to students when I could. I told them that one area represented the Pacific theatre of war, and I pointed out a memorial to their own region, the Southwest Pacific. I also noted to them the Atlantic Theatre on the other side of the exhibit.
As I walked into the site, I admired the metallic storyboard impressions along one wall. The Egyptians would be proud.
I noted that each of the wreathed pillars represented one of the states which existed during the conflict. I was reminded that there were 48 at the time when one of the students asked me about the number.
Also memorable to me was the following inscribed quote from General George C. Marshall:
“WE ARE DETERMINED THAT BEFORE THE SUN SETS ON THIS TERRIBLE STRUGGLE
OUR FLAG WILL BE RECOGNIZED THROUGHOUT THE WORLD AS A SYMBOL OF
FREEDOM ON THE ONE HAND AND OF OVERWHELMING FORCE ON THE OTHER.”
Would that our flag be recognized as such today.
The next day, Easter Sunday, I took advantage of gorgeous spring weather and took my son to the baseball game proffered by the area Class A affiliate. The afternoon reminded me why I like the sport so much: it characterizes our country and is truly the national pastime.
As I waited for my son on the tables and chairs provided at the club level as he went to the store, I enjoyed the ambience. In the distance were the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Two ladies walked by and said,”I wonder if loudmouth will be here today.” I imaged in my brain some heckler in their section.
Then one older gentleman asked another if his bag was in his way in their row of seats. The other man replied in the sardonic wit common to southwest Virginia, “Does it have liquor in it?”
One family went to the concessi0ns behind me, and as they made to buy their refreshments, a foul ball bounded by them. The presumed father retrieved it and gave it to the young man. He showed it to the woman, and she exclaimed, “You didn’t!”
There is something magical about coming away with a hit ball from the game.
My son, age 12, was asked if he wanted to participate in one of the on-field games between innings. He demurred at first, but then with my encouragement agreed to do it. I told him he would only be a kid once.
As he went down below, the home team, which had fallen behind 4-0, began a comeback. They eventually went ahead and never relinguished the lead. The mood of the crowd got even better than it was on this beautiful spring day.
My son was competing in a game in which kids ride an inflatable animal and bounce their way in a race in right field. In the three-person competition, he came in 2nd, having made a closing flourish. A little girl beat him and his male colleague.
As we sat in our seats, a man behind us kept softly yelling, in his baritone Virginia twang “Be a hitter!” when our team was up. This sounded like an urging on of machismo to me, a little like “Man up!”. I figured the dudes at the plate were doing their best to follow the man’s advice.
I have one endearing sound from this day at the park. Our home team pitcher threw what appeared to be a curve ball, which smacked the leather of the catcher in a pure way.
The batter was out on a called 3rd strike. Frankly, in a day of beautiful events at the ballpark, this was the ultimate thing of beauty.
My visits to D.C. and the local baseball park were Americana at its best, sandwiched in between professional pressures and personal crises. They made me happy I was an American.