Friday, August 27, 2004

Impressions... #1

Gettysburg. Washington. Atlantic City. And many points in between. What a road trip, and what a hoot. Fun was had by all, generally. Because you weren't there while I meandered through the American countryside, you are going to have to suffer through some of my verbal meanderings here instead.

I have said before that I love the United States. It is a magnificent country, in so many ways. The scenery is often beautiful to look at. There are many structures of historical and/or architectural significance. The people are (mostly) great. That's the good stuff.

But there is bad stuff too. Now I don't want to be accused of Yankee-bashing here. I merely want to point out a few things, from my perspective, and you are free to accept them or reject them, as you like. For a longer piece of mine on how I feel about America click here.

Gettysburg was an amazing place. There is so much history there. And so many graves.

As I wandered among statues and gravestones, I wondered how necessary the actions leading up to the Civil War had really been. Was the formation of the Confederate States and the subsequent secession really necessary? The southern states didn't want to be dictated to by the north, but slavery would have disappeared in relatively few years anyway. Slavery was then, and is now, deplorable in every way. But it couldn't have lasted much longer, a few years at most. Wouldn't economic sanctions and boycotts by the north and internationally have killed the practise of slavery just as easily as did killing many thousands of combatants on both sides, without the bloodshed?

I don't claim to be a historian, but aren't I just a bit right on this? I am not a pacifist. I just wonder why, so few years after the Declaration of Independence and the writing of the Constitution of the United States, Americans were already killing each other. There are good sites available here and here on the Civil War. I'm going to use them to refresh my memory as well.

We toured the Capitol building in Washington. There were security people everywhere. For the most part, we found them to be polite and helpful. There were signs posted stating what visitors would not be permitted to carry on their persons if they wished to enter the Capitol building. Box cutters and pocket knives, for example, and liquids of 'any type' were prohibited. Fair enough. My wife volunteered to walk back to the hotel, several blocks away, to ensure that I wouldn't have to throw away my expensive Swiss Army pocket knife. I'm not sure what harm might be possible with such a puny instrument, but... no problem. I strolled the lawns of the Capitol, taking pictures, waiting for my wife to return.

We were sure not to attempt to take containers of water, soda, beer, wine, gasoline, sulfuric acid or milk of magnesia through security because we recognized that any and all of these were liquids, and thus prohibited. Still, a search of my wife's purse by a security worker uncovered a tiny vial of medicine. It had to be thrown into a dumpster outside the security station. Well, yes, the medicine was liquid. But the content was also clearly labeled on the vial itself and on the little cardboard box that contained it. Oh well, I suppose my wife could have substituted nitroglycerine or something equally volatile and risked blowing up her husband and child in the process. After all, terrorists do that all the time.

So... the security guards were only doing their job. Weren't they?

When we left the Capitol building after our tour, I found myself suddenly on the verge of tears. My wife and son asked what was wrong as I struggled to compose myself. I explained that I felt an incredible sense of sadness. The United States of America, the strongest and once noblest place on earth was, I feared, in irrevocable decline. And that made me sad. If a country founded by brilliant men, expressly trying to prevent, via the constitution, what is in fact happening in America today, can decline as quickly as it has, then what hope is there elsewhere? Like in Canada, where I live, for instance. I fear that the United States has seen its zenith and that it will continue to get worse. More and more people will give up dreams of strength and freedom. More and more people will resign themselves to the liberal dream of uniformity and stasis. And those few people who dare to stand up for the freedom intended by the authors of the constitution will end up in jail.

Lets' talk about jails for a moment. I've read that the United States has a larger percentage of its population in jail than anywhere else on earth, including the former USSR. I don't know if that is true, but judging by the number of jails ("correctional facilities,' I believe is how they were labeled) we saw in our rather random ramblings through several states, I can believe that assertion. What in the world did all these people do to end up in jail? Oh yes, I forgot. Marijuana.

I'm afraid this post is getting way too depressing. More of my impressions tomorrow, if you can stand them.

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