24 April 2016

Anacostia Trail

I loved this trail and I think it's an important one to do because there are so many pieces of DC history here.  You'll read about the Bonus Army, the first mental hospital in DC, segregation, Barry Farm, redevelopment, and so much more.  Totally fascinating.

Anacostia isn't the safest part of DC and its reputation is probably worse than the area actually is.  I decided that since we're running out of time to do everything I want to do, I wouldn't try to fit it in with my son's weekly field trips and to go with my husband on another day instead.  It was such a good walk that I want to go back with my son, but if we don't have time to do the entire walk, we will definitely go back to the Anacostia Community Museum because they have an amazing exhibit on DC history from 1963-1975 (it replaced the DC after the Civil War exhibit we went to last fall that was so good).

23 April 2016

Mt Pleasant Trail

This was a lovely walk to do in the spring because the area is so nice and it was interesting.  However, it wouldn't be at the top of my list of most important heritage trails to do in DC, especially if you'd done others in the area.

22 April 2016

Georgetown Alleys

My son isn't quite as interested in alleys as I am, so I got my husband to come with me on this one.  We started at Pomander Walk (south off Volta between 33rd and 34th), then went to Cashell Alley (which was just named and doesn't really have older buildings or homes on it so you could skip it, but it's right there north off Volta between Wisconsin and 33rd).  Then we went up Wisconsin to Caton/Scott Place (Reservoir and 32nd- you can walk through it on Google street view) and over to Orchard Alley (NW of P and 30th), then down to Corcoran and Oak Alleys (between 31st and Wisconsin and M and N).  We crossed the canal to go to Cady Alley and Cecil Place, then into Georgetown University and back to the car.

I loved it.

If you think alleys are interesting, you might like this pdf about alleys in DC.

12 April 2016

The Choir, Updated

I was reading the other day about Miriam (the sister of Aaron) and her chorus of female musicians and dancers who celebrated after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea/Sea of Reeds.  Miriam leads a group of women who are carrying frame drums (tof) and dancing which is similar to women celebrating David's victory in 1 Samuel 18 and Jephthah's daughter's doomed celebration of her father's victory in Judges 11 (and also, likely, Deborah's song in Judges 5 and a mention of Philistine women singing to celebrate a military victory in 2 Samuel 1).  It's also reminiscent of Jeremiah 31:4, "Again you shall take your tambourines [hand drums], and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers." The reference to Philistine women performing musical celebrations, and quite a bit of archaeological evidence that shows women as the primary players of hand-drums throughout the Mediterranean suggests that playing these instruments was a specifically female role in the ancient Near East.

So, if this assumption that the tof was a woman's instrument is accurate, it implies that women were present when that instrument is mentioned.  For example, Psalms 68:25 ("The singers in front, the musicians last, between them girls playing tambourines...") uses a grammatically feminine construction for the drum players.  Psalms 81:2, 149:3, and 150:4 likely include women since they all refer to the tof.  All of these psalms aren't merely hymns or nice-sounding collections, but part of Israelite ritual processions and celebrations in praise of Yahweh.  

The point here is that it appears that this is another piece of evidence (and I was sure I'd written somewhere about women serving in the temple in ancient Israel but I cannot find it so I'll link to that later) that women were part of public religious events in ancient Israel.  "Gathering to rehearse, compose, and perform provided women with the opportunity to experience leadership and camaraderie, as well as the esteem of their colleagues and also of their audiences. Such experience is empowering." (Carol Meyers)

It was that quote that reminded me strongly of the choir that sang at the Women's Meeting a couple of weeks ago.  It wasn't just a nice group of people to listen to, their performance allowed those women to do all the things Meyers mentions, plus give them the opportunity to take a prominent part in a major religious observance.  It would not have been the same without them and their role was as necessary as anyone else's.

11 April 2016

Lincoln Memorial, Watergate, and Hughes Mews and Snows Court

Last week's field trip was stuffed in with other DC appointments and ACT prep so we didn't have much flexibility and we ended up going to the Lincoln Memorial, Watergate, and Hughes Mews and Snows Court.  None of those are in the right time period (with one exception) but they were all in the right location so that will have to do.

There's not much to do at Watergate except look at it, at least right now.  There is supposed to be a Foggy Bottom Trail in progress but the signs aren't up yet.  I'd recommend doing that trail when it opens, hopefully later this year.

We went to the Lincoln Memorial to talk about the March on Washington, of course, and also Marian Anderson's concert on its steps in 1939 when the Daughters of the American Revolution wouldn't allow her to sing in Constitution Hall.

Hughes Mews and Snows Court are some of the only places left in DC where you can still see how the old alleys and interiors of the city blocks were used for housing.  Definitely worth a stop.


Two things from the last week.

Another defining point of Trumpism is petulant ignorance. Trump's complaining about the unfairness of the delegate rules is another reason why Trump would make a terrible president.  There are plenty of people in the US who view the party nomination system as a democratic process that's simply based on a popular vote (sort of as if we had a two-round system), but for a candidate to not understand that isn't the case is not acceptable.  Trump has consistently campaigned on not caring about how the system works, but sometimes the POTUS actually needs to understand how things work.  If you want to change the system, don't tell us it's unfair, give us concrete and practical ways to fix it.  Trump completely ignores most issues, spouts half-baked ideas when pressed, rarely outlines workable proposals to fix the few problems he actually cares about, and sulks and whines when get doesn't get his way or people point out his misconceptions. Petulant ignorance.

Sanders' complaining is in a different category- just irritating, not a symptom of a serious underlying problem.  If you're going to run as a Democrat, and Sanders freely admits that he chose to run as a Democrat because "in terms of media coverage, you had to run within the Democratic Party."  Bernie has benefited greatly from running as a Democrat and I think that's okay.  But it's not all good things when you choose to run as a Democrat.  You also accept the nomination process which includes superdelegates which may well choose someone who's definitely a Democrat (and raises lots of money for Democrats). This is the system Bernie signed up for.

Honestly, I think both Trump and Sanders could run as independents at this point and I'm not sure either or both won't.  That would be an election to remember.

And the other thing.  I'm concerned about these religious freedom laws that have been passed in the South.

In many ways they are unnecessary because sexual orientation isn't a protected class in most states, and in many of those states it's only protected in housing and employment.  Obviously, none of the states passing these laws designate sexual orientation and/or gender identity as a protected class.  When people talk about a wedding photographer in New Mexico in 2013 who was required to photograph a same-sex wedding, they often forget that New Mexico state law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity "in matters of employment, housing, credit, public accommodations and union membership."  The New Mexico Court of Appeals made the ruling based on New Mexico law and it only can apply in New Mexico.

People in North Carolina and Tennessee and every other state are already been free to turn away business for pretty much any reason. Laws that specifically say you can discriminate based on marital status, gender identity, and sexual orientation (while ignoring all the other ways you can discriminate, like how you treat your children, or whether you contribute financially to worthy causes, or if you're wearing shoes and a shirt, or most anything else) are insulting and harmful.  They contribute to an atmosphere of distrust and miscommunication that can easily make life hard or dangerous for some people and that is not what I want to see happen.  I also think that laws like these make it much more likely that gender identity and sexual orientation will become protected in the future and I'm pretty sure that's as far from the goal as possible for the people passing these laws.

However, these laws are much more than unnecessary in many ways.  They're actively harmful when, for example, they mandate which bathroom anyone uses rather than allowing flexibility on that point.  I understand that there is a lot of concern over this issue, but the worst way to deal with this is to mandate from the top that people use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate. This solves nothing.

And one final point- I think it would be helpful for religious people to reframe at least some of the discussion around religious freedom today to empowering us to take responsibility for our religious choices rather shifting the blame to someone else.  If a religious school isn't able to participate in a national sports tournament because some games are scheduled on Sunday, say that the school chooses not to participate rather than saying it's barred from participating (or, to be especially positive, say the school chooses to uphold its principles and not participate).  If you are a religious person and choose to incorporate a business, realize that you will need to follow state and federal discrimination law- don't frame it as an undue religious burden to do so.

(Also, can we please remember that official religious institutions like churches and religious universities already can ignore most discrimination laws?  An extreme example is that a pastor can still refuse to marry an interracial couple in a religious ceremony.  I hope no pastor would ever do that, but it wouldn't be illegal.  I truly do not foresee a time when participation in private religious ceremonies is controlled by the government.)

04 April 2016

U Street Trail

This is a good walk to do for the first half of the 20th century.  It does cover some of the second half but it's more about the first half.  This was a lovely and interesting walk.

Also, there are lots of signs from the African American  Heritage Trail in this area so look for those too.

01 April 2016

Cherry Blossoms and Pearl Harbor

We couldn't do our regular field trip last week because of spring break, but the entire family did see the cherry blossoms right when they first bloomed (and before the massive Easter weekend crowds).  We walked down to the spot where this photo was taken (this is an AP photo).

We talked about the way Japanese, including US citizens, were treated in the US during WWII. That's more a story on from the west coast rather than the east coast, but people were constantly writing to DC during WWII demanding that the cherry trees all be destroyed.  This photo and all it symbolizes is a lot more relevant this year than it ought to be.

There are new trees planted on the spot where this one was cut down.