Day 1 - Flying on Wings of Rubber and Steel

Posted by Whit Barringer , Wednesday, May 28, 2008 10:54 PM

We are in Washington, D.C.

We stayed the night in Memphis last night and left this morning at 7:00 on the dot. It took us a little over 14 hours to get to our hotel, and we ordered pizza so we wouldn’t have to step outside the door again for another 12 hours.

On the way, we saw quite a few interesting and beautiful things. The mountains were the best part. We were able to see the Appalachian Mountains and bits of the Smoky Mountains. Most exciting was seeing the signs of all the Civil War battle names – Manassas, Wilderness, Shenandoah, Fredericksburg, and quite a few more.

To those of you who don’t know why we’ve come so far: It’s not exactly a vacation.

My best friend, Jeremy, his girlfriend, Rachel, and my other best friend, Ash, have come this far on a mission. We are looking for American identity.

We are looking in the places that seem obvious. The memorials, the museums, the monuments, the statues. We see these things as intrinsically tied to what we think it means to be an American. But at the same time, there are details in the places that seem irrelevant that are just as important to that definition. We will be coming home in a week, and we’ll have many stories to tell.

For instance: Something that I thought was particularly interesting was the number of roads in Virginia that were dedicated to people as “Memorial Highways” or “Memorial Bridges.” That, in addition to the number of Civil War battle sites, military institutes, and military museums (as well as this past weekend being Memorial Day) reminded me of how Americans identify with death on a daily basis. We are a nation of remembrance, and we are constantly reminding ourselves (out of guilt? debt?) that we are never to forget. Americans believe that they live, breathe, and die by certain ideals that they regard as closely intertwined with Americanism. But what are they, really and truly? What does it mean to live and die for a word like “freedom” or “America” and not really know what it means? What does it mean to be loyal to a vague blur of hand-me-down stories and distantly removed history lessons?

We are observers while we are here – intense yet biased, understanding yet separated. It will certainly be an adventure, and I hope you will stick around for the ride.

I’ll see you tomorrow.

2 Response to "Day 1 - Flying on Wings of Rubber and Steel"

Monda Says:

What an opportunity. We ARE a nation of remembrance, although we seem to selectively revere at times. I'd be fascinated to know just how attached to place that selectivity is.

Will there be photographs? Interviews? I can't wait to see what you find out about us.

W.E.B. Adamant Says:

There will be pictures, of course. There probably won't be interviews, but who knows.

We're going to be passive in our listening, but that doesn't mean it will affect the outcome. Sometimes our questions are answered best indirectly, right?

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