Washington, DC and What Freedom Means to Me

washington dc panorama
Panorama of the Capital Building.

So my trip to DC was…thought-provoking.

Allow me to share a little something before I continue about the monuments.

Before I left, I replied to a post someone made on Twitter (that, or I said something on my own) about GamerGate.

I think you may see where this is going but before I go on, I only said it was a movement that said, “we’re the ones being bullied!” Even though prominent members of the movement have terrorized Anita Sarkeesian,¬†Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu and several other women just on the virtue that they are women who play, make, or comment on video games. And lord knows how many more people they’ve terrorized that aren’t even involved in gaming.

And of course, I got three or so eggheads that commented with, “YOU’RE A LIAR,” or “LOOK UP THE FACTS BEFORE YOU POINT FINGERS AT US (insert curse word that shouldn’t be repeated).”

Understandably, I blocked them. I don’t have time for their shit.

But it DID leave a strange after-taste in my mouth. Here I am, going to Washington, DC to observe prominent moments in our nation’s history defending the exercise of free speech and expression, and yet GamerGate exists?

I put that in the back of my mind while I checked out the monuments and museums.

We stopped at the Smithsonian first, where I got some pictures of these ere ibeji figures.

ere ibeji of yoruba culture Ere_Ibeji_Yoruba_2

Ere Ibeji are twin figures from the Yoruba culture in Nigeria. You’re technically not supposed to take them away from their families because these figures represent a child from a set of twins who died. So I wondered, how were these figures acquired? Probably by force, but what if the twin spirits attached to these figures were no longer wanted by their families? What did that mean for the spirits, when the families no longer want a physical memorial dedicated to them?

We moved on to the war memorials. We first saw the World War II memorial, which struck a chord with me because my grandfather served in the Pacific side of the conflict.

world war 2 memorial

Although I wonder, what the frick was the rhyme or reason for ordering the states like they did? They’re not listed alphabetically or by the date they joined the union. So what the hell?

I didn’t find an answer, but I found many, many quotes engraved on the walls there, including these¬†ones.

world war 2 memorial quotes on walls WW2_Memorial_Quote2

We moved on to passing the Washington Monument, which is famous for having two different colored sets of stones. Why? Some people say it was the Civil War, but it wasn’t JUST that. It was also the result of a political party hijacking a stone dedicated to Pope Pius IX, thereby interrupting the donation drive. Thanks, Know-Nothing party. You’ll be happy to know your intellectual descendants will be the Tea Party.

Then we approached the Lincoln Memorial and the place where Martin Luther King, Jr. made his I Have a Dream Speech.

Lincoln is actually much smaller in real life than he is in the movies.

lincoln memorial

After that we circled around and stopped at the Vietnam memorial, which was the memorial with the most impact just based on the way it’s constructed.

vietnam memorial

I wanted to find my uncle’s name on there but then I remembered, “Oh wait, this memorial is for those who died in the conflict, not for those who lost their minds as a result of it.”

We moved on to the other half of the Vietnam Memorial.

“There is no other half!” I can hear you say.

Oh yes there is. It’s this:

vietnam womens memorial Vietnam_Womens_Memorial_Back

It’s a statue honoring the women who served in Vietnam. Many of them were medics, but there were some who also fought.

This was the only memorial that made me cry.

I cried because there were just so many people dead and all we can do is make statues for them, like the ere ibeji of the Yoruba people…

That and it was stupidly hot and I didn’t put on any sunscreen and I hadn’t had lunch and I was overwhelmed with sights and sounds and light and it was just a LOT for me to take in.

We stopped for a minute so I could recoup, and then we walked past the crowds of students boarding back on their buses, to stop at the art museum.

dc art museum fountain

This was probably my favorite part of the trip other than seeing the ere ibeji figures.

I got to see the presidential portraits painted by Gilbert Stewart up close.

george washington by stewart

Stewart is an amazing draftsman. The man has such an impressive skill for drawing and it shows in how well the portraits are laid out and proportioned.

There were also Thomas Cole paintings there.

thomas cole painting

The man is a master of light, and by damn, the detail he puts into his paintings is jaw-dropping.

detail of thomas cole painting

And in the other rooms of the museum were Italian Gothic pre-Renaissance art (interesting choice) and art by Rembrandt, including the Three Magi, reunited after being separated for 130 years

Surrounded by art and history and free expression, I was mostly just absorbing it all in rather than trying to think it over. I wanted to do the thinking AFTER all the observing and exploring.

Now that I’ve had some time, I realized a few things.

Like, even though I disagree with GamerGate and what the movement represents, they can, and probably should, express their opinions.

That doesn’t mean I have to give a shit about or agree with those opinions.

The great thing about freedom is that not only can we express our ideas: we also have choice in what opinions and ideas we listen to.

I can hear GamerGate screaming, “YOU’RE MAKING THE WRONG CHOICE.”

Well it’s MY choice, MY voice, and I do what I want with my opinions and ideas. You don’t have to listen to them.

The other thing is, I’ve noticed a lot of voices, not just GamerGate, are against LGBT rights and representation in media, and “social justice warriors.”

You know who the ultimate “social justice warriors” are? Soldiers.

I hate when people pull the card of “these soldiers died for your right to express yourself,” but in this instance, it’s true. Soldiers have died, and are STILL dying, so you and I can live with justice and free thought.

“But the government spies on us -”

Shush. That’s not relevant to this conversation right now. True, our government has had a rocky relationship with free speech (even putting in place laws during World War 1 and the Patriot Act that limit or try to control free speech and expression). But it’s a work in progress. Our government has ALWAYS been a work in progress, AND it probably will stay a work-in-progress for years or even decades to come.

“But soldiers are all violent dehumanizing – ”

Shush. What soldiers do is either up to them or to their commanding officer. In either case, they control their own actions and it’s up to them to be responsible human beings.

The other thing is people seem to think that soldiers fighting for our freedoms means it gives people the right to deny service or rights to those in the LGBT community.

Which is absurd, because there are members of the LGBT community currently serving as soldiers, and even in the past they’ve fought for our freedoms in lord knows how many wars.

It’s also absurd to think that the “freedom” to deny service or rights to LGBT folks is a freedom at all. It’s not. It’s just another form of oppression. It’s denying rights to other human beings that don’t mesh with your ideas.

I can keep going about freedoms for other groups, including freedom for non-white people and (especially relevant to me) freedom for non-Christians. But this post is already getting long.

Just remember that here in the United States, even though we have a short and turbulent history, especially in regards to freedom of speech and expression, we all have the right to express our ideas. Even GamerGate.

But with that freedom comes the freedom to choose what is important to us and what we choose to listen to.

I’ve decided I’m not going to listen to GamerGate. And that’s my choice on the matter. You can agree or disagree, but remember that’s YOUR opinion, too.

If you chose to comment, please keep it civil. I moderate the comments myself.

“That means you decide what to publish!”

I guess, if you want to view it that way.

“That’s censorship!”

No. It’s my choice to moderate the comments to keep the conversations civil and non-abusive. Just as it’s your choice to write a novel-long rant about censorship elsewhere.

You have a choice in what to say. Make the choice wisely.

Thank you for reading.

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