Saturday, February 09, 2008

Midnight at the Lincoln Memorial

It's nearly midnight on my last night in Washington. Whenever I come here I always make a noctural visit to the Lincoln Memorial. It's a great place to sit and think - to contemplate the meaning of life, if you like. That' where I am now - sitting on the steps leading up to one of the most awe inspiring memorials to a great American leader.

I'm looking down towards the Washington Memorial which glories in its own reflection in the waterway which separates it from the Lincoln Memorial. Over to the left is the tragic memorial to those many thousands who gave their lives in the Vietnam war. And way over to the right, just visible through the trees, is the Jefferson Memorial. Any of you who have stood where I anm sitting now will realise what a special place this is.

It's a year since I last sat here, wondering what the next twelve months would bring. I sit here now thinking how lucky I am to live the life I lead, to have the family I love and the partner I will spend the rest of my life with. I look out at the Washington Memorial and see a great shining beacon of optimism. It's inspirational in its own rather abstract way.

I always leave America injected with the free spirit which is so prevalent here. It's as if I've had my annual fix of the "Ameri-drug". If you've ever been here you'll know what I mean. If you haven't, you'll think I'm babbling.

American politicians rarely complete a speech without uttering the words: "America IS the greatest country on earth. Sitting here now, I'd have to agree with them ...
Except for England of course...


Anonymous said...

From the defence of Conway to this, "America is the greatest country in the world" There are probably 4bn people in the world who do not agree with this unjustified comment. It is OK Iain, I appreciate some people do not travel that well.

Anonymous said...

Iain, you need to amend your penultimate paragraph for it to make sense.

Anonymous said...

I love that spot too - Must head back there soon.

Not sure I agree with your last but, well, not until Wales falls into the sea!

janestheone said...

er Iain I think you mean "if you've EVER been here you'll know what I mean"

Anonymous said...

Gordons currently working on that last point.

Man in a Shed said...

Washington was one of the first planned capital cities. Its design, apart from supporting the type of government the US designed for itself was to intimidate visiting foreign leaders.

However only a few hundred yards away is a very different city. Indeed the parks in front of you are not safe.

I can remember listening to local radio out there just past midnight on new years day as they ran a waiting for the first murder of the new year - its was only a few minutes past midnight.

Still the underground doubles up as Nuclear blast shelters - so that's handy.

Anonymous said...

"America IS the greatest country on earth. Sitting here now, I'd have to agree with them ...
Except for England of course..."

I'd put Australia and Canada up there too.

That England is such a great country means that we don't need Brussels (or Scotland) to run it for us. The next decade must be about taking our country back.

Brian said...

Yes, and I remember that lovely scene when Forrest Gump's childhood sweetheart, Sally, recognises him amd they wade into the Reflecting Pool and embrace. Life sure is a box of chocolates. And America, despite all its acknowledged faults, certainly has good people in abundance who want to make things better. And that's what makes me, an Englishman first and only, think it's the next best thing to Canada over there.

Paddy Briggs said...


I too have been moved by the view that you describe and very deeply regret how the last seven years has so reduced America's standing in the world. Change is ahead, thank goodness, but it will take a while fully to eliminate the venal effects of eight years of Bush and his junta.

Now I’m going to take issue with you. First it is ignorant and simplistic nonsense to talk about the “greatest country on earth” be it the USA or anywhere else. Like me I judge that you are well travelled and maybe you have also lived away from home. I lived overseas for much of the period 1980 – 2002, (in mainland Europe, the Far East and the Middle East) and I also travelled widely during this time (more than sixty different countries in fact). This taught me that whilst I am proud of my home country and would return there to live eventually (as I have) I absolutely do not think that it is the “best country” on the planet. It’s the best for me because I am British. It’s where my roots are and I am familiar with and like the culture and the way of life. But I would not arrogantly promote the idea that it is the “best”.

My second cavil is with your use of the descriptor “England” rather than “Britain”. We live in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – that’s what it says on our Passports. We are British citizens. We are all richer for our historic and constitutional links with our Celtic cousins. Indeed for a man to imply that he is a citizen of “England” rather than of Britain diminishes him. There is nothing wrong with being English and proud of it – see me at Twickenham last Saturday for example! But I am even more proud of being British and find offensive the barely hidden anti Scottish/Welsh/ Northern Irish attitudes that are present in the rhetoric of some who relish in the idea of English nationalism. Long live the Union!

Anonymous said...

If Abraham Lincoln was and is such an inspiring figure of American folklore, then why were they still hanging blacks in the streets, 100 years later?

How come they have only just got rid of appartheid?

Please note that the black cook at Pearl Harbour was denied the Congressional medal of honour and awarded the silver star.
In itself, that should be overturned.


asquith said...

Which part of Stoke do you live in, Gary Elsby? I'm from Sandyford/Goldenhill. Regrettably! I'm going to move to Shropshire or B0ournemouth when I won the lottery. Thought about emigrating but I'd miss home too much. Though I might live in Canada for a few years, then go back.

Back to home news now, Iain! Outstanding!

Anonymous said...

If you tried such a thing in the UK you'd first have to dis-regard the litter and the grafitti no doubt adorning the said memorial plus of course you'd probably last all of 2 minutes at that time of night before being set upon by our indigenous youth and having your mobile and wallet nicked with a good few kicks to the head for good measure

Welcome back to Brown's Britain, Iain.

Anonymous said...

I first visited America last year, going to New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. Washington is the most beautiful place I've ever been: we spent an evening wlaking around the places you describe, Iain, and the sun was just setting on a warm, pretty, March day.
I know exactly what you mean, it's a hell of a place.

Man in a Shed said...

Paddy Briggs - The US is in someways what England could have been - without Scotland and Ireland.

The love of freedom was from English traditions and indeed the rebels in the war of independence enjoyed support in England as their cause was seen a just.

But then we got side tracked by the British Empire. Shame.

On an aside doesn't this look like a call to remove Gordon Brown by Charles Clarke ?

Anonymous said...

I would like to add that I am certainly not anti American, but I would prefer that American history is reserved the same right of address, that Americans do unto us.

Too many nice things are written of great american heroes. Abraham Lincoln had many qualities and much should be written about him. He also deserves his place in history and his role in 'saving the Union'.

However, it is total bullshit to suggest that Abraham freed slaves from the slavery that George Washington (freemason) helped to set up.

A person in the great Democratic model is not freed from slavery, when he can not use the same 'bathroom'as a white man.

American Democracy came after the atomic bomb fell on Nagasaki, and about 25 years later, to be more precise. In truth, JFK and Bobby bought the USA into my modern world.

And as you'll notice in the spat between Ted Kennedy and the Clinton's the other day, more is given to LBJ than is usually credited.

I'm not surprised that Ted stuck the boot into Hillary for this slight and I can't blame him for being peeved.

Maybe, Barack Obama would be in town, in 2008, if JFK had never existed, but facts are facts.

Black soldiers were burned alive in 1946 for being black and the rumour still persists that a whole regiment of black soldiers were shot in their own barracks when told they were not being demobbed.

Murder. Denied to this day that they ever existed and therefore not shot.

Abraham who?


Anonymous said...

The Tories should be engendering that feeling of freedom the lifting of oppression.

Anonymous said...

The rising Anti-Americanism in the UK (which Prince Andrew rightly mentioned) is in part a displaced version of english self-hatred.
I became increasingly anti-american during the Bush years and recognize I'm equally guilty of that displacement.
I can't help feeling that the lofty ideals of the founding fathers have never been fulfilled.
Therefore I consider Barack Obama to be an ideal President of the US. He talks a good game but we don't know if he'll follow it through. Indeed he did start his campaign by self conciously linking himself with Abe Lincoln.
US foreign policy tells everyone they should be optimistic about democracy and the sense of the 'global village'. Obama may go some way promoting those ideals inside the US itself.
But I'm guilty of displacement. UK democracy is at least as threatened as US democracy.
The latest threat is summarized by phrases such as: 'MPs should be bugged like everybody else'. The fallacies of which should be obvious.
No, the police shouldn't be able to bug MPs at will without ministerial and parliamentary oversight. Its completely insane.
In our system MPs must be protected from being spied on by government agencies, its a path to tyranny. I'm even willing to risk national security to protect that.
I don't say that lightly as my cousin was killed by Al Qaeda in the Bali bomb.
There is an adage that eventually you always turn into your enemy. I agree with that but would wish to postpone it as long as possible.

Anonymous said...

The only thing better than sitting on those steps as night falls is sitting on those steps with your arm around someone pretty...

Anonymous said...

Very nice.

Anonymous said...

I agree abou the dignified majesty of the Lincoln memorial. Nevertheless, while in the Atlantic Colonies you might not have seen yesterday's Brookes cartoon in the Daily Murdoch. It's the second down on the left:

Alex said...

America isn't all bad. I lived there for nearly three years, but then I have also lied in France, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium, and to be honest the US beats the the Netherlands but ranks about the same as Belgium.

Despite all the glamorous cities and opportunities, you don't have to look far to find people living in desperate poverty, far worse than anything in Europe.

They still have the death penalty, despite the number of murder convictions that have been found to be unsafe now that we have DNA evidence.

And the level of intimidation of suspects and plea bargaining in the American legal system, the apparent ability to secure a better outcome in the courts with a high priced lawyer etc. etc. do not inspire confidence.

If you think the US is the second greatest country on earth, then you should get out more.

Anonymous said...

"I always leave America injected with the free spirit which is so prevalent here."
Provided you're not homeless, black or in need of medical treatment which you cannot afford. You'll then find out that "free" just doesn't exist. You need to put those rose-coloured specs away. The grass is most definitely not greener on that side. You try living there rather than being a tourist for a few days.

Anonymous said...

America is the freest country in the world and I am its biggest fan. The people who sneer at it are, in the main, people who have never been there and breathed the intoxicating air of liberty there.

They can't imagine what its like and the bile of their petty resentment really is repulsive. Be glad that America exists. If it didn't, we would be living in a different world today and it would have been more like the USSR which, frankly, the British lefts tilts longingly towards anyway.

Anonymous said...

4:00 pm - I used to enjoy posts like yours because they're so full of bile and were good for a laugh, but, please, you America-haters, find something new to say - especially as everything you write is fantasy anyway.

Iain wrote: "I always leave America injected with the free spirit which is so prevalent here."

You wrote: "Provided you're not homeless, black or in need of medical treatment which you cannot afford. You'll then find out that "free" just doesn't exist."

Hmmmm - how very patronising. The black middle class is very large and is swelling. Obama, who I am sure you adore, is one such. So is his wife. There are millions more. Black doctors, black surgeons, black hospital administrators, black orthodontists, black lawyers,black judges blah blah blah blah blah.

Of course, those are the people who motivated themselves, just like their white counterparts. The white underclass has exactly the same mindset as the black career welfare recipient. Gimme.

Re "medical treatment they can't afford". Can't most people afford "free"?

Have you ever noticed that the streets in US cities and towns are not littered with the dead and the dying? Or do you think they clear them away for when movies are filming street scenes?

Yes, healthcare is very expensive, as it is in England, although the costs are hidden in your NI contributions (which by right you should be able to direct to the healthcare insurer of your choice, but that's another matter). But if you don't have the funds, you will be treated anyway.

If you have an accident or emergency, BY LAW the ambulance has to take you to the nearest hospital and BY LAW that hospital is required to treat you without asking about your ability to pay.

Once out of danger and stabilised, you will, quite rightly, be asked. If you cannot afford treatment in a private hospital, you will be transferred to a county facility. County hospitals in the US are on the same level, or a little better, as the British NHS.

You will be treated.

If you are employed (and don't forget, you're stable by now), you will be asked to sign an agreement to have monthly payments deducted from your salary. They may be small payments, but if you are able, you will have to pay, over a period of time, for your treatment.

If you are not employed and have no assets, you will be treated anyway.

I cannot see what you find so shocking about this.

Paddy Briggs said...

Verity: “The intoxicating air of Liberty”


• The liberty to be turned away from the Emergency wards because you are poor and don’t have health insurance - and then the liberty to die in the street.

• The liberty to use your corporate power to employ children in the third world in sweatshops to make your designer clothes.

• The liberty to ignore the opinions of much of the civilised world and, on fabricated pretexts, to invade countries with whom you have picked a quarrel.

• The liberty to shore up fascist regimes in a bid to promote your own specious ideologies.

• The liberty to discriminate against your own citizens on the grounds of race, colour and creed.

• The liberty to promulgate unhealthy food under clownish brands around the world in the pursuit of profit.

• The liberty to tell the rest of the world that they can go to hell and that you will continue to waste the world’s resources in your 4x4s.

• The liberty to say that despite all this you are the greatest nation on Earth…

Anonymous said...

You aspire to be a politician and yet you make the basic mistake of saying that England is the greatest country! Is that what it says on your passport --country of origin ---England? If so, I apologise but mine says Britain.

Anonymous said...

Verity, I commend you for reading, apparently believing and trying to spread the propaganda. Do you work for the Department of State? It would be funny if it wasn't so damn frightening.

Anonymous said...

paddy briggs. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Verity, I am glad you took the effort to put the silly fool right.

All these people achieve is to show us their utter ignorance and spite.

However you cant exactly blame them for their utter stupidity when the BBC, half our politicians and Americans like Michael Moore keep telling lies, or are just as ill informed.

I have visited the states countless times, and I KNOW exactly what Iain is talking about and he is absolutely correct, in his gut feeling.

The things I dont like about the states are the same things I dont like about the UK.

Which are debt slavery and pointless fascist type rules and regulations. Especially the ones that only achieve a transfer of wealth from the people that worked for it, to the people that printed it, with interest.

The biggest problems the American people have are very much the same as ours.

Which are a vicious greedy dishonest and infinitely corrupt political class. Who seriously hate their own public and treat them with the contempt they believe they fully deserve.

Which very unfortunately they increasingly do.

Anonymous said...

Paddy Briggs

You make a habit of talking out of your ass and today is obviously business as usual.

The Americans have a saying, and it goes something like this.

Dont point the finger. Because when you do four fingers are really still pointing at yourself.

WE THE BRITISH invented the present capitalist and world trading system and it is us that have benefited from it most.

If you dont like the exploitation of third world children then only buy goods and services that you KNOW are made in your own country.

My goods, for example.

Otherwise you are just as guilty as you accuse the Americans of being. You can also add to that, giving up your pension and your cheap foreign holidays, if you seriously dislike the golden goose so much.

Bullshit is legal and free. But it is still bullshit, however many times it is repeated.

Remember also it is not the American people or government that enslaves foreign people and works its children. It is the governments and the parents of the foreign country that are only to thankful to.

It may not be nice, but if you have a better plan like bringing back the British Empire. I am sure we would all love to hear it.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Verity and anybody else.

I have never been to America but I am related directly to several Americans and have had many American friends.

Sorry about this and all that, but they are all sterile and stupid.

They are so up themselves it is laughable. They believe in lots of big ideas but its all sentimental hogwash.

The declaration of Independence is, next to the Bible and Magna Carta, one of the most important documents in the history of civilisation and yet, like the Bible, few act as if they really believe it.

The Americans are insular, backward artistically and they believe in the tooth fairy, which is what most of their political system is based upon.

They have waged several unsucessful, agressive wars against people they thought would be a pushover, but were not.

They have had heads of state who were lying bastards and all their heroes exist on celluloid.

Their cars are crap. It is virtually against the law in the USA to be poor. Ditto black or Hispanic.

I have Hispanic American friends who fret over precisely what shade of brown they are because, in school, and at workd, it matters. How very very sad.

Nothing but nothing would ever drag me to that terrible place with its plastic culture and its fake hygienically wrapped drinking glasses and its taxi drivers who cannot navigate.

They have elected an idiot who has pissed off two thirds of the rest of the world.

No American can believe that they are not loved and feted all over the world. When I hear an American accent, I run for cover.

They burnt my direct ancestor as a witch in Salem, Mass. I am not going to forgive that one either.

Yak40 said...


For once Hillary was correct. It took LBJ to get the Civil Rights act passed, JFK couldn't do it and his brother wasn't in a position to do it either.

The Kennedy legacy is one mostly of hype, mostly because the media covered for their warts and blathered about Camelot ad nauseam.

Yak40 said...

anon 4:00 PM

Ever lived there or are some Guardianista troll ?

I've been here for over thirty years and, for oh so many reasons, you couldn't pay me to live in today's UK.

Anonymous said...

WW - Sorry your American friends and family are stupid, but there are stupid people everywhere in the world, so I don't think it's anything to do with being American. I won't address your points because you are speaking from prejudice and have no navigation system. You might want to read what Yak40 has to say, though.

Personally, I find many Americans to be articulate, eloquent, thoughtful, well-travelled and very entertaining to be around. The big cities - especially in Texas and the West - are glittery, well-run, well-policed, stylish and wonderful places to live. Dallas has a world-renowned opera company, and the Houston Ballet goes on world tours.

San Antonio (also in Texas) has a huge Mexican-American population, has lots of pizzazz and I never saw any Mexican Americans looking as though they were worried about their skintone. I believe it was the first major American city to vote in a Mexican-American mayor. El Paso is another vivid, lively Mexican American environment. Most of the people on the border are bilingual.

So, I dunno. Just going by this one state, that has a population of around 30m, it is largely law-abiding because the citizens have the right not only to own guns but - this is the best bit - to "carry concealed".

Some deeply stupid states, mainly in the "liberal" Northeast, don't allow gun ownership. But that's what you get when you have what are, in effect, 50 separate countries making up one giant country. People immigrate to Texas from all over America. I don't know that anyone moves to Massachusetts of their own free will.

The United States works because Americans are proud of being American. It's bracing. It's vigourous. It's nice.

Yak40 said...

People immigrate to Texas from all over America.

Not just America ;)

I don't know that anyone moves to Massachusetts of their own free will.

That's funny, and likely true.

Anonymous said...

Among the "facts" cited on this thread:

1) Black Americans were being hanged in the streets in the 1960s.

2) George Washington ('freemason') helped to set up the institution of slavery.

3) Hospitals in the US do not provide medical care to those unable to pay for it.

And on and on.

Not the best advertisement for educational standards in your country, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: I'm not quite sure who you complain against.

But I doubt you can pursue your case for injustice against USA history, even in this right wing blog.

Black people were most certainly unprotected in US law over one hundred years after Abraham Lincoln 'freed' the slaves in slave owning states.

George Washington won his war of Independence, but independence for who, exactly?
He was a slave owning freemason, who fought to keep slavery and retain the institutions of slavery and freemasonry apartheid within the Colonies.
It is also noted that the thirst for power by the landed white rich, was always the intended outcome.

Perhaps you know of an president who has never been a freemason or a Ku Klux Klan member (Truman-Grand Wizard?)

I don't agree that hospital care for the poor is neglected.