Monday, July 18, 2005

The last colony

I was in the last colony on this Bastille Day weekend. Though I have never lived in DC, I seem to my a frequent visitor; unless I'm forgetting a few visits, this was my 17th time in the nation's capital (starting in December 1987).

The independent Jewish scene goes in the next post. In this post, some of the American people's newest acquisitions:

The National Museum of the American Indian, on the Mall near the Capitol, opened in September 2004. It's big; I didn't see anywhere close to the whole thing. I mostly saw the Our Lives exhibit, about Native American communities in the present time. I don't know enough to assess the political and cultural issues that sparked controversy in the museum's design, and how those issues turned out. But it made me think about the way that Native American culture (or a caricature of it) is so integrated into today's "mainstream" American culture (the names of over half of the states and many cities/rivers/etc.; exploitations such as the Cleveland Indians, Washington Redskins, etc.) with little awareness of the existence of actual Native Americans in the present. The issues of cultural survival (or "survivance") bear some resemblance to issues that come up in the Jewish community, but perhaps have more in common with the Workmen's Circle than with the Religious-Culturist form of Judaism that most American Jews follow today. I learned about a group of ironworkers who live near Montreal and built the World Trade Center as well as many other skyscrapers and bridges. Also, I learned that certain Native groups have a special red card that lets them cross the US-Canada border freely, under the Jay Treaty of 1794. There was a quote saying something like "We were here long before the border was."

The National World War II Memorial, between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, opened in April 2004. I understand why they couldn't include all the names (as at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial) -- there are a lot of names (around 400,000). But listing the 50 states just isn't the same. It's also strange that it took almost 60 years from the end of the war to build this memorial. And maybe that's why the classical architecture is designed to look like something that has been there forever. But the FDR Memorial is better.

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