As I type this, I’m sitting in a restaurant near Gates 10/11 in one of the terminals (not sure which one) of Reagan/Washington airport. The place is packed, and it’s frankly not the best atmosphere to write or grade Civil War midterms. I should be doing the latter, but I’m longing to do the former. So, ignoring my Stoic, professorial duties, I’ve decided to write this short (well, short so far) essay.
But, I can make out—in the far distance—some kind of strange sound. I can’t make out the language, though.
Regardless. . . .
I have just had the pleasure of spending some good Sunday afternoon hours with Will Ruger, political scientist with a specialist in IR theory at Texas State University, and Jim Otteson, philosopher and economist extraordinaire at Yeshiva University.
Will, also a reserve officer with the Navy, shared with me rather stunning photographs from his time in Afghanistan. [Steve Masty, our man in Kabul, if you’re reading this, I saw much of what you’ve been explaining so beautifully from this journal].
Will and I just said our goodbyes. And, Jim, one of my closest friends since we first met in a freshman class, August 1986, had to depart for New York a bit earlier this afternoon. I head back to Detroit soon.
In the background, I can make out only the fewest words of a, a, a. . . yes it is. . . a chorus. “Dr. Birzer, Dr. Birzer, when will the bluebooks pass back into the hands of the students; does not the spirit of Arlington move you; can you not feel the long shadow of Lee. . . .” Much, if not all, of the chorus is in Greek, and my Greek is really rusty.
So, I turn back to the glories of my iPad. Not Greek at all.
The three of us—Will, Jim, and I—descended upon Arlington, Virginia, on Friday for a Fund For American Studies program working with several very sharp undergrads from around the country. Following a Liberty Fund-style colloquium model, we discussed the ideas of Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Friedrich Hayek, Frank Meyer, and Cass Sunstein over numerous sessions. Roger Ream, a gentleman in every way, and Michelle Le, possessing both unrelenting energy and intellect, joined the discussion as well. Jane Mauck hovered and organized with Southern charm. Dana, too. The sessions ran smoothly.
The leisure that TFAS so graciously provided is over, though, and I now prepare to head home. Frankly, I can hardly contain my joy at being with my family later tonight.
But, I can’t help but place myself geographically. Near where I sit, John Randolph and Henry Clay once dueled. Neither lost. I’m only miles from Robert E. Lee’s statue, sitting in the middle of Arlington National Cemetery. Lee lost. One of the largest buildings in the world sits near me as well. Five sided; how bizarre. Is it closed on a Sunday? Probably not. Pity.
And, of course, across the mighty Potomac, where John Quincy Adams once demonstrated to the world the pride of his nakedness, sits the capital of our once noble and humane republic, founded upon the idea that all men are created equal, endowed with the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What do the women and men who occupy the innumerable office buildings on either of the Potomac think about those gun-totting revolutionary gentlemen of the eighteenth century? Did they win? That is, really win?
Do the occupants of those offices take into account what the founders might think of them? “Swarms,” I think Mr. Jefferson wrote.
Ah, those many, many new regulations, new agencies, new positions, new fees?
Would any member of the Beltway elite recognize the General of the Continental Army, were he to ride into D.C. on a white horse? Even more importantly, what would the American Cincinnatus think of the capital that bears his name?
Well, I only know that I had a wonderful weekend, am enjoying a fine hamburger, am typing away on my cherished iPad, and will soon be with my beloved family.
And, I feel blessed about one other thing: the TSA let me through its unconstitutional monstrosity of a checkpoint without a comment, without a search, and without a groping. Of course, when our mad scientists finally invent the scanner that can read the heart and the soul, the security guards will know that I am gleefully placing them in different levels of Dante’s Inferno. George Washington, if he hadn’t already been arrested, would be playing the same game with me.
God bless, America.
The faint sound of a chorus hangs in the distance. This time, I must answer its call.
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