Walking by monuments and other ≠Independence Day feats

Spencer Farris, The Levison Group

The Under Analysis yurt is starting to shape up and look like home. Home may be a little strong, but the place is starting to feel, well, less yurty. There are finally pictures on the walls. More importantly, folks have started to stake out territory.

Graham, our public relations manager, has made it clear which corner of the yurt is his. Not just by setting up his desk and pictures, he has claimed the air. Literally. I thought he was burning sage to clear out bad spirits. Turns out he enjoys the smell. And perhaps not coincidentally, no one else does. Me included, so I fled the yurt for our nation’s capital this Independence Day weekend. We Americans did a Brexit back before it was cool, after all.

I haven’t spent time in Washington DC since high school. I won a national 4H trip and spent a week there, touring the sites and opening my country eyes just a little bit. Granted, I couldn’t find DC on a map then (or now, or most other places for that matter) but it was pretty amazing to see places where our American history was born live and up close.

I remember going into the Smithsonian building with friends. We had met our first street vendor and bought flags — they didn’t have one from Oklahoma but they did have the confederate stars and bars, which we all knew from our album covers. I confess to being ignorant of what the flag stood for, and a little angry that the security guard at the Smithsonian wouldn’t let us take our new souvenirs inside. Like most of that trip, the experience made me do a lot of research and learn some things that were not on the agenda for us. At least, not officially.

This trip was different from the last one. In part because now I can legally eat and drink what I want on a vacation but still have to pass on dessert. There are Segway tours, interactive holographic displays and free wifi at every turn. But more importantly, the sights and sites of our nation’s capital mean more to me now than they did three decades ago.

I spent a day at Mount Vernon, home of George Washington. It is easy to be impressed by his feats, but his sacrifices don’t get nearly as much mention. The eight years away from home during the revolutionary war. The risk of losing everything he cherished for signing the Declaration of Independence — which I didn’t know he didn’t sign. The selfless service in government.

Back in his time, career politicians were not the norm in this country. Serving meant a very expensive time away from your business and family. Washington was practically drafted into the presidency. The irony of this is impossible to ignore as we sit in the middle of yet another election season, one in which I expect someone to step out from behind a camera, laughing, at any moment.

Nationalism was different in Washington’s time, to be sure. I don’t really feel connected to the current wave in this country and elsewhere. While I am proud to be an American, I don’t believe my country is perfect or that we haven’t missed a few steps along our way. I put aside my cynicism when we stopped at the national cemetery in Arlington.

Standing next to the Kennedy graves was moving, to be sure. Walking among the grave markers of thousands who served this country, many paying the ultimate sacrifice while doing so put Independence Day into a very focused perspective.

Our last stop of the day was to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I marveled at the precision of the sentinels, and traced their steps in the lines they have worn over the years into the granite. Like the soldiers buried all around them, they carry on a tradition and a kinship that amazes me. It was impossible to hear the 21 notes of Taps there at that tomb without being welled with emotion.

Back home, I have two jury trials to prepare this month. A couple of hard, sleepless weeks, to be sure. Not crossing a river at night hard, not fighting in a foreign land hard, but hard work. I may not have the history shared by the soldiers at Arlington and elsewhere, but the right to jury trial, cherished in our Declaration of Independence, is something I share with my countrymen to and fellow lawyers going back generations.


Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this newspaper or directly to Under Analysis via email at farris@farrislaw.net.
©2016 Under Analysis LLC


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