Going to Washington

washington,-d.c-170.jpgYou might’ve heard Washington, D.C., was a bit of a circus this past week. A former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation gave blockbuster testimony to Congress about the commander-in-chief that seems like it could be historic no matter what happens next. People across the country met the situation’s gravity by crowding into bars and holding watching parties at home and work.

The mix of solemnity and cheerfulness suits D.C., I think. Every tourist destination there has a line as long as a theme park ride’s – some places require reservations months in advance – and school field trips and flocks of Segway riders crisscross the National Mall. Meanwhile, some of the people and events that define the country are preserved and memorialized in glass cases and an incredible amount of marble.

The Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History and National Gallery of Art house pieces of the world’s most incredible beauty, while the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum houses some of its horror, such as in the quiet devastation of a room filled with victims’ shoes in every size. National museums of the American Indian and African American history and culture display beauty and horror alike. Across the Potomac from the original oversized pages of the U.S. Constitution lie hundreds of thousands of service members at Arlington National Cemetery.

It’s nothing if not a town of juxtaposition, and there is plenty to see.

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washington,-d.c-229.jpgThis is one of those lines I mentioned, one that stood in the early morning to get a ticket up to the top of the Washington Monument. The break in its color comes from a 20-year pause in construction during the Civil War and other national problems. I guess that’s a good enough excuse.

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I’ve had the chance to go the capital twice, first in high school in 2008 with my dad and cousin, again in college in 2010 with the rest of an honors class. I’d have a more complete set with better shots for you all if I returned to D.C. now, I hope. But it seemed a good time to see snippets of a place that determines so much of what we remember and of what we do in health care, climate policy and more.

Thanks for looking, and keep watching.

Dan

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The week of protest

_C1_9503.JPGHave you kept up this week?

Millions of marchers took to the streets in all 50 states and around the world the weekend of President Donald Trump’s inauguration to protest sexism and sexual assault and shout a full-throated message of inclusion and diversity. A week later, thousands more have protested against the president’s plan to build a wall on our southern border and his Friday executive order that sharply curtails the acceptance of refugees and other immigrants, particularly from horror-filled Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. Meanwhile, more people are fleeing war and persecution than at any time in recorded history.

The Trump administration said the order would help protect against terrorists who could be among refugees’ ranks, though this is vanishingly rare. (It’s worth adding the risk of being killed in a refugee’s terrorist attack is about 0.000003% that of dying in a car crash, according to the National Safety Council and the conservative Cato Institute.) The order certainly made a splash, slamming the door on students, families, allies of U.S. armed forces and others on their way to the U.S., earning bipartisan criticism and sparking worries over whether the executive branch would obey court orders against it.

_C1_9430.JPGOne of the protesters was this woman above, Simone, whose mother escaped the Cambodian killing fields, where more than 1 million people lost their lives at the hands of a dictatorship a few decades ago. She and a couple hundred others turned out in downtown Fayetteville with signs quoting the Statue of Liberty’s plaque and Biblical passages. They urged the White House to keep the door open for refugees and other immigrants no matter their religion or homeland.

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_C1_9488.JPGI’ll add one more thought: Support a newspaper, even if it isn’t the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. I’ve written about the effects of refugee, health care, climate change and immigration policy and will do everything I can to keep doing so — and I’m just one reporter at one paper. This is shaping up to be a defining year of my lifetime and in the country’s history, and even if it’s exhausting for reporters and readers alike, we absolutely must keep trying to learn about what’s going on and what it means.

Thanks for looking, and keep your eyes open.

Dan

Who we are

t_parade-17.jpg“Our country has changed,” Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote three years ago in a majority opinion that found the landmark Voting Rights Act was being used unfairly against several states with histories of intimidation and violence toward black voters. Black voter registration has equaled white registration in many of those places and more have minorities in office, Roberts said, concluding the set of states covered by the act is based on outdated information.

The victorious lawyer for the Alabama county protesting the voting law took a more sweeping stance: “There is an old disease, and that disease is cured.”

There are plenty of things I could point to in order to show how wrong-headed this statement was, but this past week has been especially gut-punching. Following the presidential election, racial and religious assault and street harassment seem to have spiked. (Hate crimes last year jumped, too.) Black freshmen at Pennsylvania State University were unwillingly added to an online chat group about lynching. Groups of students across the country, including here in Arkansas, have led chants of phrases like “white power,” an American Nazi slogan. Speaking of Nazis: swastikas and other anti-Jewish nonsense are all over the place.

It’s all pretty nauseating and alarming and scary.

So I’m going to show a snapshot of the America I know a little better, the one that’s home to people who are black, Christian, urban, female, civilian, old, liberal, Jewish, transgender, straight, Buddhist, rural, military, gay, male, Native American, Muslim, conservative, white, atheistic, young, Asian, native- and foreign-born. I’ve seen them farming, dancing, building, worshiping, marching, laughing, crying, leaping, relaxing, serving and celebrating, among all of the other things we Americans do.

This is a tiny piece of who we are.

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_C1_6759.JPGStill, the truth is none of this is new. We’re the country that elected Barack Obama, and we’re the country that had several slaveholders among its founders. We’re the country that sings the praises of Martin Luther King Jr., and we’re the country that elected a successor to Obama who, despite his denunciation, is endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and its ilk. We’re a country that holds up the immigrant or refugee seeking a new life as an idyllic symbol, and we’re the country that began by attacking the indigenous people and consistently treated each new wave of immigrants with suspicion or outright hatred.

All of this is who we are. We have countless things to do if we want to change it, but I think we can start with two: seeing and meeting and learning about each other a little more, and never saying or thinking that racism and other prejudices are “cured.” I know I’ll do what I can on those two things, at least.

These are just my thoughts, incomplete or flawed as they might be. Thanks for looking, and I wish you well.