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The Row Boat
"Had we but world enough, and time..." *
The Lincoln Memorial8/29/2006 11:23:42
Last night with my dear companion I went by bicycle to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. After the hot muggy days here, Washington's soft, cool summer nights are incredibly precious to me. I dream of them always whenever I am away from them. We went in order to be inspired, in order to see if there is anything left to defend in the politics of the world: whether we should take up fighting for it or retreat entirely into our love. That's one way of saying it.
(At Least) Two religiously pertinent things happened.
As we were locking our bikes a group of teenagers came up to us and asked for directions vaguely. They were very nice and struck up a conversation and were emphatically impressed at our bike ride. For a few minutes we talked pleasantly and then they handed us a fake dollar bill saying, this is a little something about what we believe. I asked what church they belonged to and they asked if we had religious backgrounds. Usually I like that question and take it up enthusiastically but this time I didn't. I avoided it, saying everyone has religious backgrounds (by "religious" meaning that which is universal in everybody) and they lost enthusiasm and left. My companion was surprised I didn't take them up on talking. Normally I would. But I couldn't shake off what was lost when it began to appear that they were only talking to convert me rather than talking so that we all might be converted together. Did they approach us from the beginning with the intention of handing us the bill, the whole conversation a disguise? Or did it simply come up? Anyhow I didn't want to talk about it as we climbed up the steps of the temple to Lincoln. Why do they proclaim the love of God (with a dose of fire and brimstone, I might add) on a fake billion dollar bill? No, no! Jesus was a poor and humble man.
After coming down from the monument we came to an older man in a booth standing vigil for the military folks serving abroad. In the course of our conversation I mentioned that my companion is studying Arabic in order to end the wars. He said, Can a woman end wars? I said I thought it would take women to end wars because it is men who always start them. Then he went through all the women who have caused violence, from Helen and Eve onward. Really I'm not sure what he wanted to say, and certainly it was laced with misogyny, but I was forced to take his point. There is no help in assuming women alone can solve the problem. Men and women must solve the problem together. Putting all the hope in a single group is no better than making them a scapegoat. It occurred to me that, as a model for gender politics (if it has to be that, which inevitably people make it), the story of the Fall in Genesis should be read, not as an implication of blame on women, but simply as the complicity of both men and women in the eating of the apple and the need for complicity in our recovery.
Just by chance, we discovered in the grotto, we were there on August 28th, the 43rd anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have A Dream speech on the steps of the monument. So much has happened in that place and I wonder what sense there is in saying it remembers.
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