It is a beautiful prospect, looking east from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
We were there recently on a fine March day, and could see past the Vietnam and Korean Memorials up through the Reflecting Pool (currently under repair for a leak), to the giant fountain of the World War II Memorial (dry also), to the Washington Monument beyond (pointing resolutely upward, but unclimbable until it gets some postearthquake repairs).
Everything was being patched, but here we were nonetheless, far from home but at our official national heart.
Lincoln was to my back, all 19 feet of him, seated in his enormous chair high above the cold floor, which itself sits 50-odd steps above the road below. As a child I simply thought he was titanic and hence important. Now I look at him and see the intentional quotation in stone of Phidias’ giant statue of Athena, which towered over the Greeks centuries ago in the Parthenon. She was enshrined there as the mythical founding goddess of that city, while Lincoln—as the marble silently asserts—sits here as our martyred godfather of the indivisible Union. All he lacks is the chryselephantine.
We were traveling with friends, and despite the unavoidable humiliations of being tourists we had a good time. We saw the V2, which my grandfather worked to piece together from shards on the beaches of...