MAKING HER POINT This anti-nuclear placard is part of a one-woman protest that has been going on outside The White House in Washington since 1981.
Eavesdropping on one-liners
THE woman queuing in front of me at the US National Air and Space Museum believes the moon landings were faked. Quite why she feels the need to share this with the nice man behind the desk is beyond me. I don’t run around the Vatican shouting “I don’t believe in God!” at the Pope’s Swiss Guards.
When she leaves, I request a map and ask: “Do you get that a lot … people going out of their way to tell you all the moon landings were hoaxes?” The man behind the desk smiles affably and says: “Oh yeah! I tell them they can’t go downstairs because that’s where we do the alien autopsies!”
That was the best one-liner I heard during my five days in Washington DC. But it was up against some pretty stiff competition. At the back of The White House, an African-American girl aged perhaps six or seven peered in through the railings and shouted: “President! President!” A woman, presumably the child’s mother, knelt down and whispered quietly: “That’s not the President, sweetheart. He wouldn’t be standing on the roof!”
Things were a little noisier around the front of the building, as an Iranian opposition party made their presence felt. My attention was drawn, however, to the other protest outside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Signs reading ‘Live by the bomb, die by the bomb’ and ‘Ban all nuclear weapons or have a nice doomsday’ flanked a tent belonging to Concepcion W Thomas, a woman who’s been staging a 24-hour-a-day anti-nuclear ‘peace vigil’ there since 1981.
There was a racket outside FBI Headquarters too, but all the noise was coming from one man. As I passed in front of the J Edgar Hoover Building, I saw two people engaged in heated discussion and heard the words: “You know what? You ought to thank the Lord Jesus Christ that you don’t work for me, because if you did, you’d be fired!” I’m sorry I missed the back-story.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation also featured in an exhibition at the amusingly-named Newseum. In front of the building – a museum of news – are the front pages of that day’s newspapers from around the United States. On the morning I visited, the Miami Herald had a story headlined ‘Guns In Hospitals? It’s Not Against Law’. Only in America!
Inside the Newseum, I saw copies of the famous New York Post headline ‘Headless Body In Topless Bar’ and the Chicago Daily Tribune’s incorrect ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’ lead story after the 1948 US presidential election. And I resisted the temptation to buy a t-shirt with the suggestive caption ‘Not tonight, dear … I’m on deadline’. Even though I was. Next stop: New York.
Daniel Carey, a Mayo News reporter, has taken a year out to travel the world. His addiction to the keyboard remains, however, and this column will carry his reports from life on the outside.