photo courtesy of AP News.
Well, we did it. We ended Summer with an amazing trip to Washington D.C. for the Restoring Honor Rally at the Lincoln Memorial with Glenn Beck. We learned about this event months ago and had thought that we'd join one of the local Patriot groups on a bus. As the day approached, however, we changed our plan to allow more flexibility. So, early Friday morning we piled into the van with lunches packed and water bottles full and drove 2 1/2 hours to Silver Spring, Maryland to catch the Metro into D.C.
We and hundreds of others who were also headed for the rally squeezed into the train, (we actually had to wait for a second train before we could board!). Easily recognizable by the folding chairs, patriot t-shirts, and friendly faces, those headed for the rally carried with them an air of excitement. Once we reached our stop in the city, the way to the Mall and the Lincoln Memorial was easily found- we merely had to jump into the flow of the crowd. It was so exciting, not only to be in Washington for such an event, but to be there with the whole family.
We arrived before 8 am, and there were already crowds numbering in the thousands filling the area in front of the Lincoln Memorial and around the reflecting pool. As we walked from the Washington Memorial, around the WWII Memorial and toward the reflecting pool there was so much to see, so many people, it was difficult to take it all in. Sarah Palin later said what was beginning to dawn on us, that, "we are not alone". Many thousands of people had traveled to Washington D.C. for a common purpose; we shared a common bond. We don't want to see our Nation "fundamentally transformed", we want our Nation to be restored to the Honor and ideals of our Founders, (which, no, do not include slavery and reversing women's rights).
Working our way around the pool to the left-hand side, (facing the Lincoln Memorial) we walked forward until we found a patch of grass big enough to accommodate our family. Many people had brought chairs, but we had not, since we didn't want to be hauling the extra weight all around the city and on the Metro afterwards, (traveling light!). By the time we settled in there was still an hour and a half to go before the beginning of the rally, so Nathaniel, Kate and Isaac went for a walkabout to see what they could see. They rejoined us before the event began and just in time for the flyover. Behind us we heard the crowd applauding and shouting, and as we turned to look we saw a formation of geese flying right down the center of the crowd over the reflecting pool! What a cool sight!
There were several "jumbotron" video screens around the area so that we could see what was happening way over on the steps where Glenn Beck and his guests would be speaking. The first face we saw, after a beautiful slide show, was a Boy Scout, who led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. When I saw that I almost cried. The next three and a half hours were filled with speeches by Glenn, Sarah Palin, and Dr. Alveda King. Glenn introduced us to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, an organization which provides full scholarship grants and educational and family counseling to the surviving children of special operations personnel who die in operational or training missions. Sarah Palin presented three heroes from our Armed Services who endured great sacrifices in the service of our Country. Glenn then presented three medals of merit along his theme of "Faith, Hope, and Charity" to three men who embody those principles in America today. Dr. Alveda King, MLK's niece, encouraged us to seek the Lord and remember the essence of her uncle's message in judging others not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character- which I not only strive to do already, but request of others concerning their judgment of me as well.
Through all of the speeches and presentations ran a thread of humility, service to others, and hope for our future, all undergirded by the idea that we must turn back to God. Not collectively, but as individuals and families. Now, when Glenn goes beyond the basic ideas and treads into theological territory, we disagree with his interpretation of Scripture, and the astute listener on Saturday would have picked up the Mormon hints that he dropped periodically as he spoke. But we do agree on his basic premise: that we stand before God as individuals, and before the future of our Nation can be secured for our children, we must repent of our sins and serve God openly and honestly. We must pray with and for our children, and they must see us praying and see that our faith makes a difference in our lives. We must be changed before we can affect any lasting and true restoration in America.
Near the end of the rally we shared such a beautifully moving experience. Accompanied by bagpipes, the crowd sang together the timeless hymn, Amazing Grace. I know I cried as we sang.
Once the Restoring Honor rally was finished we sat in the shade and waited for some of the initial dispersing of the crowds to clear so that we could walk together to the Jefferson Memorial. We had neglected to bring a map of the area, but Nathaniel's handy-dandy iphone with its GPS app led the way. There was an area closed off due to the construction of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and we had to find our way past a fence and across a field, where, coincidentally, another rally was setting up... Neither Jim nor I have ever seen the Jefferson Memorial, and it was worth the hike to see. Once we finished there we took a moment to purchase some cool beverages for the kids before heading back to the Mall area to see other Memorials.
Figuring that the way we came was actually more direct, we re-traced our steps and stumbled right back into the other rally area as people began to flood in through the narrow fenced-off walkway. This was, as it turned out, a rally organized by the Reverend Al Sharpton to remember Martin Luther King Jr. on the 47th anniversary of his "I have a dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, yet situated next to the future monument to the Civil Rights leader. As we swam like salmon fighting upstream against the flow of people flooding into the area through the narrow pathway, we held onto one another so that we didn't get separated. Glenn Beck had urged those coming to his rally not to bring signs. These folks had signs. Those we saw were not friendly signs. And here is where I find my heart troubled.
In the past couple of days I have read a few of the blogs and opinion pieces written about the rally. The majority of them seem to be in the same vein and tone of the signs and t-shirts that we read in that crowd, and reflect a foundational misunderstanding of why we were there and what we believe. I've been thinking a lot lately about being misunderstood, and here it was displayed before me, as clear as day. When I protest- and let's be clear, the Restoring Honor rally was NOT a protest march- but when I protest a policy being championed by our President, I am disagreeing with an idea, a plan, or a law which I feel will do damage to our Nation. I am not, nor have I ever, protested because of the skin color of the man who holds the office of President. I disagree entirely with everything promoted by Nancy Pelosi- and her skin is the same color as mine.
Glenn's message on Saturday was that we need to "pray, be honest, and serve others", delivered with humility. The clips that I saw on the News of Al Sharpton's comments were "fight, fight, fight", delivered with anger. I'll take him at face value, please take me at mine. An open exchange of ideas without hurling invectives or twisting one another's messages is the only way to be understood. Is the gulf so very wide between us that honest debate is impossible? Perhaps. I am no good when it comes to such conversations anyway, but please don't tell me what I'm "really saying" when you won't listen to me in the first place.
Moving right along, we visited the Korean War Memorial and had the opportunity to thank a couple of Veterans for their service, which was a moment that I won't soon forget. I pray my children remember. We then went to the Lincoln Memorial and took a good long while soaking in the words of the addresses which are etched into the walls. After this we walked to the Vietnam War Memorial where we slowly took in the many, many names and the offerings left for fallen loved ones, memorials in their own right. Time was quickly passing and we were moving slower by the minute, but there was at least one museum which we might be able to reach before it closed.
We managed to arrive at the National Archives with a few minutes to spare before they closed the line down. It seemed fitting, somehow, to finish our visit to our Nation's Capitol by seeing the documents written by our Founders. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, together with the Bill of Rights, were on display in the low lighting and cool interior of the building and were captivating to all of us. The kids, I'm afraid, were more familiar with these documents because of the movie National Treasure than because of what they have learned in History class at school. But we have been watching Glenn Beck's "Founders' Friday" programs, and have been filling in their educational gaps at home. Too quickly we were told that the Museum was closing and we needed to leave.
Our exhausted crew made it back to the Metro station, onto the train, and back to Silver Spring. Hungry, we stopped into a Mexican food place that made the best- and biggest- burritos we have ever been served, with delicious tacos for me and a Mexican take on Gumbo for Bekah. The drive home was a snooze-fest for the kids as I tried and failed to stay awake so that I could keep Jim company as he drove.
We are now a couple of days removed from the day in D.C., and trying still to process all that we saw and heard. Pray, be honest, and serve others. Nothing new to those of us who listen in church and read our Bibles. Refreshing to join a sea of others who believe the same thing. May God have mercy on our Land.