I was in Washington DC on business for a couple of days this week, as I am a few times a year. A pretty productive trip, with some interesting high (and one low) lights this time.
The first came in the form of a book. I always take one with me on the plane; I get little enough time to read for pleasure, so when I fly I want to take advantage of the time. I'm in the middle of Halsey's Typhoon and had planned on taking it, but in my rush to get out the door I left it on the table. So I picked up The War Within by Bob Woodward. I'm damn glad I did. It's been a fast, well-researched read and I'll be sure to post a review somewhere once I'm done...my first book report in years.
The next evening I attended a reception at the under-construction Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Navy in the Washington Navy Yard. While the Cold War Gallery won't be open for a while, the museum itself is a real treasure. If you're ever in DC, go. Period. It's on a base, but you can still arrange to get there. However, the highlight was not the reception itself. Talking to a member of the Naval Historical Foundation, I learned that they had found two original letters - one from 1789 and one from 1804 - written (more than likely dictated) by Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson. I asked if I could see them, and I was taken to the office where they were, and shown them. I can't begin to describe how I felt as I started picking through the handwriting. To look upon a piece of original history like this is a once in a lifetime experience. Following the reception, I met up with a childhood and lifetime friend of mine, Mike, now a Navy Doc at Bethesda, and we went and had some seafood on the waterfront and talked about old times. That was the end of the highlights.
The next day, bright and early, I headed to the Pentagon for a quick meeting before having to get on a plane back to Boston. It was 9-11, and the place was gearing up for the opening of the Pentagon 9-11 Memorial shortly after my arrival. My sked didn't allow me to attend the dedication. It was sure to be a slow morning INSIDE the building, but what I saw outside is what made me shake my head in disbelief. While heading in, I noticed a small group of protesters holding signs and talking in loud voices. That's always been fine by me, and I take comfort in the fact that the military makes an effort to set space aside for such activity, if someone chooses to do it. Those feelings left me when I got closer and realized that these people were affiliated with (or had at least bought their signs from) the Westboro Baptist Church. They displayed the telltale colors and slogans, like "Thank God for 9-11" and "God Hates the USA", "9-11 was God" and all the usual crap. If you want to get really angry, watch this 2006 piece from Hannity and Colmes...or as much of it as you can stomach. These idiots are almost enough to make me hate the First Amendment.
Fortunately, they were gone when I came out of my meeting - probably because I got lost finding my way back, it's an easy thing to do - and I was on my way to the airport, anxious to get through my post-9/11 TSA screening so I could curl back up with my book for the flight back.
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