How Much is Freedom Worth?

Published: August 16th 2017
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Protest CampProtest CampProtest Camp

Protesting the issues since 1977.
Stunning sunrise or not, I decided to give my feet a break for this morning and stay in bed, although I am still waking up early. When I looked out of the window it looked very overcast anyway, so I suspect that if I had got up and walked down to The Mall I would have been disappointed anyway.

When we left the hotel, it wasn't just overcast, but it was pouring with rain. My wife and I put some macs on to dry. Such things were not cool enough for our son and daughter so they resided themselves to getting wet.

We had booked on a Segway tour (a usual holiday event for us), so we needed to walk to 23rd Street where it started from. After a safety video (depicting carnage and mayhem if we weren't extremely careful) and a bit of practice, we headed out onto the streets. It was definitely a great way to explore The Mall, given the distances involved, and we also had a guide to point things out and explain the history.

The first location was the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. This is where the 4,000 presidential staffers work when they
Brutalist ArchitectureBrutalist ArchitectureBrutalist Architecture

The FBI head quarters.
aren't important enough for the West Wing (harsh). It is also where the the Vice President has his office and staff.

Trump is in New York at the moment so we were able to go down the paths near the White House. There is a house opposite called Blair House, which is where foreign heads of state and leaders stay when they are visiting. Apparently they used to stay in the White House itself but that changed when Churchill was staying and marched into the first couples room in the night to complain about something. Apparently the First Lady said to him, "If you were married to me I would put poison in your drink". He said to her, "If I was married to you, I would drink it".

If someone had been staying then their country's flag would be hanging outside and, depending on who was staying, the security outside would be increased.

Our guide also pointed out a protest camp. Apparently that has been there since 1977 although want they are actually protesting about has changed over the years. No prizes for guessing what, or rather who, they are protesting about at the moment.

On top of one of the nearby buildings we could see some tents and some cameras. That is presumably where the film all the news broadcasts with the White House in the background.

Our son had a backpack on and my wife saw one of the not so Secret Service guards signal to another who had a sniffer dog to go and check it out.

Next was the Trump International Hotel. This used to be the old post office building and apparently it is the third highest building in Washington DC and above the height restrictions relative to the Capitol Building. Not because Trump flaunted the planning rules, as you would expect, but because it was built before the rules were in place.

Opposite is the J Edger Hover FBI building. The architectural style of this building is called 'brutalist' and you can see why. It really is quite ugly and well out-of-place alongside all the 'neo-classical'. Apparently Hover hated the building, so the president at the time deliberately named it after him as a revenge for his, ironically, brutal and unwarranted actions whilst FBI Director.

We then went up to Capitol Hill and then back down The National Mall past all the Smithsonian museums. The Capitol Building is full of various symbolisms relating to freedom and liberty, but is quite controversial as it was built with slave labour.

We passed the point where President James Garfield was assassinated in 1881. Apparently it was not the gunshot that killed him, but an infection that he caught from one of the 40 surgeons that all wanted to get in on the act of saving him.

Finally we went to the Lincoln Memorial and then back to the starting point, which was the end of the tour. At two and a half hours it was the longest Segway tour we have done, but there had been a lot of ground to cover.

Next we went to the White House Visitors' Centre. This covered an interesting history of the building and the first families that had stayed there. Interesting to note that it had not been updated for the current incumbent. I'm wondering if it is being engineered so that history will just pass him by.

Next we went to the National Archive, which is fantastic and the highlight so far. First of all there are various exhibits about the constitution and the amendments, including some of the 11,000 proposed amendments that never made it. There is then one of the original copies of the Magna Carta, which was particularly significant for us, although some of the writing looks as if it has been slightly water damaged - I guess it is over 800 years old.

There is then the original three documents known collectively known as the American 'Charters of Freedom', namely the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, all of which are in sealed, light controlled cases.

It was quite hard to comprehend the significance of all four of these documents. Seeing the security, my daughter asked how much they would be worth - now there's a difficult question to answer.

In the evening we went to see some friends in a place called Rockville to the North West of DC. On the way out there, we went through the Embassy District, which included the Norwegian, South African and Indian embassies and a few with flags that I did not recognise. There was also an ugly brick building, which we could see represented a certain country currently in the process of leaving the European Union due to the red phone box outside.

The news is all about the events in Charlottesville and the news conference with Donald Trump that (quote) went off the rails. I know it is a big story, but there must be other things going on in the rest of America, and the rest of the world for that matter.


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