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Washington DC

 

We stayed in Georgetown a pretty part of Washington that was a pleasant stroll along the Potomac, past the Watergate hotel, to the Lincoln memorial.  Alternatively you can take the subway or a local bus into town, past the White House.  Washington is home to the National Museum of Art and the National Air and Space Museum as well as the Smithsonian and the National Museum of Natural History.  It is commonly thought that Washington was laid out by the founding fathers along Masonic Lines, an idea further popularised by Dan Brown in his latest book.  It abounds in grand vistas triangularly arranged.

The trip down was a wonderful demonstration of the cultural and intellectual diversity of the United States.  As you leave New York the car radio can still pick up the classical music stations, jazz or classic rock.  But very soon the only music available is country.  Or as they say in the Blues Brothers Movie there are two kinds of music in non-urban America: country; and western.  This is interspersed with shock jock talk shows; becoming more and more ‘born again’ as you go south.  The topic of the day, subject to vitriolic abuse, was a New York school that had undertaken a disaster recovery exercise based on a scenario of the school being taken over by a Christian extremist group.  The shock jocks and their listeners of course claimed that this was political correctness gone mad.  Obviously a Muslim extremist group had been transposed into a Christian one for reasons of political correctness.  None of the phone-ins made the obvious point that Oklahoma bombing; and numerous school shooting sprees have been the work of nominal Christians; or remarked on the dangerous nature of religious extremist groups of all kinds. 

The highway Service Centres were another eye opener.  It was like being on the set of ‘Roxanne’ or ‘Married with Children’,  except the out of control children were not very amusing and one wondered how long the hugely obese, yet often quite young, parents and their screaming, ill spoken children, would survive a heart attack.

 

The surprising thing is that when you are in a major city in the United States the majority of the people in the street look relatively slim and healthy; and children are well behaved in restaurants and other public places.  If anything, children in New York seem prematurely adult.

 

The United States is confronting other ways too.  For a large part of the population religious fundamentalism appears to be a way of life.  Yet the United States has some of the finest brains in the world.  On the way down to Washington we were listening to people, with some apparent authority amongst their flock, who clearly believe that the world is no more than 6,000 years old.  Yet in Washington itself there are museums the proclaim the life of the universe to be 13.7 billion years, so far, and that display the United States’ amazing achievements in space exploration,  astronomy,  geology, anthropology and so on.  It as if two, or perhaps two hundred, different worlds coexist with little or no crossover. 

 

After a pleasant couple of days seeing the sights: the White House; Arlington cemetery; the Lincoln Memorial; the Washington Monument; the Capitol; visiting the museums; and the enjoying the restaurants and coffee shops of Georgetown; we set out for Boston.  But on the way I wanted to visit Baltimore and perhaps Philadelphia.  Although Baltimore Harbour was interesting it’s not an exciting city.  On the way out I found the road system confusing.  I got lost.  Then we found ourselves in an area where the people were unhelpful and one ot two made aggressive gestures.  We both felt tourists like us were not welcome there.  Perhaps our skin was the wrong colour. I quickly turned the car around and retraced my steps. Eventually I found a way out but we had lost so much time that we could do little more than drive quickly through Philadelphia on the highway.  No Liberty Bell for us.

 

 

 

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