Monday, February 25, 2013

States' Rights, Federal Power, and Old Order Anarchism

A Family Trip from Rochester, N.Y. to Washington, D.C. and Back Again

On the way down, we took an impromptu detour to Gettysburg National Military Park. I was surprised by how moved I was by the many monuments to my fallen home-staters. I was just as moved by the monuments from Louisiana and Arkansas, thinking, "Wow, those boys came a long way to die." The State of Alabama Monument was perhaps the most moving of them all, and the State of Virginia Monument the most majestic. I was as glad to spend a moment in front of the statue to Lieutenant General James Longstreet, who died a Catholic and a benefactor to black schoolchildren as I was before the statue of Father William Corby, C.S.C., chaplain of the "legendary Irish Brigade."

The capital of these united States was rainier and colder than we expected, so we spent much of our time in the Smithsonian. If this was all the federal government funded with our taxes, who could complain? The first day we spent at the National Museum of American History, where Benjamin Franklin's walking stick and Kermit the Frog can be seen incongruously in the same hall, and the National Museum of Natural History, with its bones and fossils. Day two was spent at National Air and Space Museum, whose highlight for me was the SS-20 and Pershing II Missiles, at the National Museum of the American Indian, with its great cafeteria of native foods, and the National Gallery of Art, where I lucked out with an exhibition titled "Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848-1900," having just read a book on the movement. Oh yeah, we saw The White House, Washington Monument, and the United States Capitol, too.

After all this, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania could not have been a more welcome place of rest. We stumbled upon the lovely Quiet Haven Motel, the only such place I've stayed at in years owned and operated by an American family. Not Amish, but at least they didn't accept credit cards, not that I would have used one if given the choice. We were there on the Sabbath, so not much was open, but the buggies where out and about enjoying the day of rest. From there, we headed north through the onion-domed hills of the coal-mining central region of the state with its immigrant members of the Russian Orthodox Church and Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to the former town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, whose "population has dwindled from over 1,000 residents in 1981 to 12 in 2005, as a result of a mine fire burning beneath the borough since 1962," and has been literally leveled by eminent domain.

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