I'm only a few hours back from my first trip to Washington D.C.
While it was a working vacation, of sorts, I did have time to observe some of the more typical elements of that city that would be Rome.
I won't bore anyone with all the touristy details, but I did want to discuss one point. The wife and I visited the National Archives yesterday ( an interesting, though perhaps less glamourous stop than others). What I found, rather what I felt, hard to take was the rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. In the inside of this basilica were the "scripture" of the U.S.--the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution (Happy Constituition Day, BTW), and the Bill of Rights. Now, I found the fact that those were the original, faded documents very cool. What I had problems with were the quasi-religious elements at work. First the light is dim, yes, I know, to aid in the preservation, but let's be honest it is also meant to add to the air of holiness present. You are supposed to look on in hushed reverence, moving slowly (oh, so slowly) up to the relics to pay homage. If that isn't religious I don't know what is.
Don't misunderstand--those documents are the products of political geniuses--yes, I used the "G" word. I benefit daily from those documents (when the government isn't busy undermining them), and I appreciate the historical significance of them. But I CANNOT tolerate the attempt to create a new religion--The American Civic Religion--from these pieces of parchment and the reality and mythology that surround them. I'm not interested in worshipping at the altar of Columbia. I believe an author by the name of Gelertner just wrote about this very subject in the book (I believe this is the title) Americanism.
Anyway, I found the tension interesting between sacred and secular and the attempt to blur them.
I did get my Nat'l Park Passport stamped at the Jefferson Memorial. Yay! C'mon, you know you want a NP Passport too.