Democracy is Closed

Published: August 19th 2017
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Marine Corps MonumentMarine Corps MonumentMarine Corps Monument

Famous scene from the taking of Iwo Jima Island.
It was a foggy start to the day, but that soon cleared and it turned into the hottest day since we arrived. Hot and humid.

We were booked on to a tour of the Capitol Building today and it was advised that we leave 45 minutes to clear security, so it was quite an early start to the day. When we got there, the security was in fact quite quick so we had loads of time to mill around and enjoy the air conditioning in the Visitors' Centre, which is huge and very impressive. With time to kill, my daughter tried to find a passing Senator or Congressman to ask him what the wifi password was.

The security around Capitol Hill is absolutely nothing compared to the White House. Traffic is restricted, but there are no fences you can actually walk right up to the building itself, albeit most likely with an awful lot of people watching you.

Once we had seen a 'orientation video' in one of the two theatres, covering democracy and congress itself, it was time for the tour. We had a guide and everyone was given headphones so that we could all hear him
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Monument at the grave of John and Jackie Kennedy.
clearly as there was a lot of people in there and hence a lot of noise. We started at the area under the Rotunda (the large iron dome). The guide explained talked through the significance of everything in room - and almost everything, be it decoration, statues, paintings, frescos, markings, the windows etc. had some kind of meaning.

We then went into the National Statuary Hall, which was, obviously, full of statues. Each state had contributed two statues and these were all placed here or some of the really important ones such as JFK, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln and George Washington were back in the room under the Rotunda. The guide demonstrated the acoustics by talking to us from the other side of the room, which was very impressive, particularly given all the other people and their associated noise.

And that was the end of the tour.

We then walked across to the Supreme Court, which is next to the Capitol Building. We could go into to the building, but the court room itself was closed for two weeks for cleaning.

After not seeing the Senate Chamber, the House of Representatives or the Supreme
Arlington National CemetryArlington National CemetryArlington National Cemetry

Graves with the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument in the background.
Court Chamber, it was quite a disappointing morning.

After a spot of lunch and heading back to the hotel, I decided to head to Arlington in the afternoon. This meant getting the Metro. Given the experiences of the Metro Line in Los Angeles last year, there was some trepidation. Particularly as going to Arlington would also involve going on a 'blue line'. It was spacious, efficient, air conditioned and safe, but not an adventure to write home about

The Arlington National Cemetery is huge with graves as far as the eye can see. It is split into different sections; in some are a selection of lots of different sizes and shapes of stones; however most are row after row of identical white stones. Some are as yet unused. Many have the details of the service men/women on one side and their spouses on the other, who are also buried there as well.

The grave of John and Jackie Kennedy is also there, which includes a flame lit by Jackie on the day of the president's funeral and has been burning ever since.

I also walked up to the impressive IS Marine Corps Memorial (known as 'Iwo
Hall of StatuesHall of StatuesHall of Statues

One of two rooms on the Congress tour.
Jima'), which is based on a Pulitzer Prize winning photo of five Marines and a Navy Corpsman raising the American Flag during on a Pacific island during the Second World War. I have seen on TV and in the movies a lot, but it a lot bigger than I was expecting.

Close to it was a gift from the people of the Netherlands. This unknown bell tower is all but hidden, which is no surprise as it is a hideous, rusting, metal monolith completely out of keeping with the elegance of everything else in Washington. The people of France gifted the Statue of Liberty and this is what the Netherlands came up with.

We went to the Cheesecake Factory for an evening meal, which is always a favourite of ours, although it meant driving out to a suburb called Friendship Heights. I tried to convince the others that we could go on the Metro, but they were still traumatised from Los Angeles.


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