Monday Musings: Baseball, Africa Summit, Jim Brady
In this town, which is our town, the world is always with you, right outside the morning-opened door, the Georgetown streets, in cushy hotels, in front of the White House which we pass every day, in the traffic jams, from which we glimpse visiting black limo dignitaries, amid the demonstrators who come here every year, always different but always the same.
In this town, which is our town, history is always with us, our monuments are concrete paeans and poems to our shared histories and memories. We’re always remembering, commemorating, celebrating the singular events of our events, which are imbedded in cement, in the grassy knolls of our memories and cemeteries, in books and street addresses.
No other city is quite like this in this quality—our local news are national and world news, our daily travels to offices, work and chores take us through a kind of daily theme park of history. Some things occur here, rest here and our part of our routine like a backpack, the clothes we wear, the messages we retrieve from our open pads while having coffee at a Starbucks.
Yet, we live in our blocks and villages and neighborhoods, and sleep under blue-dark skies, and wake up to retrieve the morning or pore over the magical contents of a baseball box score: IP 7 H 3 R 0 ER 0 BB 1 SO 10 MNP 99 ERA 3.39. That would be the beatifically splendid pitching line on the Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg in a 4-0 win over the Phillies.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, a large part of the other part of the world came to Washington as part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, in which leaders from most of the nations in the continent of Africa arrived for discussions, workshops, gatherings, speeches and policy-making, headed by President Barack Obama.
They—political leaders and business leaders and perhaps social and cultural leaders— came from all over Africa, from Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and a host of other countries. Black cars whizzed around town, stopping traffic around places like the Mandarin Hotel. There was a particular logjam around the Four Seasons Hotel across from the Georgetowner office on M Street. Still and all, the day proceeded on the avenue: a couple taking a self, sitting on the faux cow in front of Ben and Jerry’s, a father trying to tickle his baby boy into a laugh in front of a clothing store, and fashion-conscious girls prancing in twos and threes along the avenue as if it were spring still and all.
We breathe, we dance or come out of the Whole Foods Store, slightly less richer on a Saturday when the bloody struggle in Gaza came home to Lafayette Square in front of the White House in a protest rally by thousands of Palestinian supporters, condemning the rising death toll there, the Israeli incursion and invasion of the Gaza strip to stop rocket firing by Hamas. It is one of those horrible tragedies where we all have opinions, in our town, this town.
Earlier in the week, Latinos, some of them illegal immigrants also gathered to protest in front of the same White House, demanding an end to deportations sparked by the flow of illegal immigrants mostly young people at the Texas border, streaming up from Central American countries.
The world echoes loudly here, especially if, as some of us do, or have done, we mingle with the gathered crowds, and when we do that, we seem to tumble under the onrush of history.
Life, of course, doesn’t care about the town, any town, and it moves on, and provides us with its own lessons. One day, a 69-year-old woman named Patsy Stokes Burton of La Plata, Md., a mother of four, went to one of her four jobs in Upper Marlboro and was struck by a bus and died of her injuries. Her husband Mack Burton said, “When she left yesterday, she told me to have a good day and I told her to have a good day." The words, so everyday, suddenly turned into last words. Burton said, “I have no vendetta against that driver. Like I said, she was just out doing her job. It happened, and not a thing in the world anybody can do about it.”
One day, history comes that way in our town, old history, refreshed in the passing of someone we felt we knew who made history. Today, the news came that James Brady, the former press secretary of President Ronald Reagan, who was among those who was shot in an assassination attempt on the president in 1981, died at the age of 73. He was paralyzed by his wounds. For a time his name was on gun control legislation—the Brady Bill—which was eventually allowed to expire as law.
In this town, our town, we make our own diversions, the daily life this city gives. On Saturday, we went to the National Zoo, in hopes of catching up with Bao Bao, which we did not. But we did see the two sets of lion cubs, three by three, and their lionesses, their mothers, lounge a little separate from each other, like worldly, sanguine young ladies and women. A distance away, father lion lounged, his tail swatting flies, looking like the laziest, most regal of lion kings, black mane darkly royal.
The young cubs posing on ledges, with their mothers, looked for all the world, like feline debutantes in a John Singer Sargent painting, languid, self conscious and aware of being beautiful and rare, and pure. A mom licked the ears of one of the cub. You could practically hear the cub whisper, “Oh, mom, not in front of everyone," as if an ordinary teenager.
In this town, our town, the world is always with us, one way or another, within walking distance, within a shout or the murmurs of hearts and minds, our hearts and minds.