As you know if you watched this space, The Observer and family are recently returned from our summer sojourn in Washington, D.C., having hit all the monuments and a good bit of the Smithsonian museums, plus several of the greater and lesser burger joints and burrito rollers on Capitol Hill. We’re not going to make you sit through a viewing of our vacation slides, but we may revisit the trip in these pages later when we’re in a mood to get philosophical about this country of tribes we all call home. Unless, that is, Donald Trump accidentally pushes the Doomsday button instead of the “bring me KFC!” button on his desk while in the grip of his next ALL CAPS RAGETWEET on Twitter. File that possibility under “Death by National Suicide.”
As we write this, The Observer has blistered feet, the result of having walked something like 22 miles over the past three days, according to the walking app on Spouse’s phone. Like every great trip we’ve ever taken, we feel like we need a vacation to heal up from our vacation. We do, however, want to dish about one place in D.C. that we visited, lest you miss it while you’re there yourself: The Newseum. As the name suggests, it’s a museum dedicated to news, which turned out to be a highlight of the trip even though we went in without much hope.
Journalists are a rather rumpled lot, not given to building soaring glass monuments to their endeavors unless you count the pile of chipped coffee cups stacked in the sink of your average newspaper office break-room come quitting time. Still, as you know if you’ve turned on Twitter or the evening news lately, the profession is under assault these days, and not just from the online advertising that has kicked the financial legs out from under the business end of things. Hard-working journalists, some of whom will mope shamefacedly for days if they accidentally print the name of a Philip as “Phillip,” have been maligned as fabricators and liars from the biggest bully pulpit in the land, even though the history of the profession is littered with the unmourned graves of folks who were shitcanned the moment it was discovered they’d cooked a single quote, much less made up stories from whole cloth, something reporters are accused of now on a daily basis by a guy who probably hasn’t used a newspaper for anything in his whole life other than keeping his wig dry during a sudden summer shower.
Forgive us, then, if the Newseum felt like a protest, with its towering wall of photos depicting 1,800 journalists killed on the job, the crushed and singed camera bag of a photographer who died on 9/11, memorials to combat journalists who gave their lives to bring us the truth about World War II and Korea and Vietnam, and the remains of a violently dismantled Datsun blown apart by an assassin’s bomb, which also took the life of an Arizona reporter whose stories had put him at odds with organized crime. Enemies of the state all, no doubt. All liars who played fast and loose with the truth, worthy of Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ scorn and scowl right up until the moment they laid their lives on the altar of bringing you, dear reader, all the news that’s fit to print. And to think they could have just stayed home and made up some shit, far from peril and foreign battlefields and the crush and smoke of falling towers. Sad! As for The Observer, some of the things on display there moved us to tears at times, and we’re stingy with those on principle. If you get to D.C., and still care about truth, justice and the American way, be sure to check it out.
By the way, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the most surprising thing we saw in the Newseum: a large display of Trump-centric merchandise in the gift shop, including several dozen red caps with the MAGA slogan/hypnotic suggestion embroidered on the front. Even there, in a temple to the sacrifices of a profession he hates, the Emolumentor-in-Chief could score his cut from the swells. Not that it mattered much. The gift shop seemed to be doing a much brisker business in hats that said: “Freedom of Speech is Not a License to Be Stupid.” But, as any journalist worth his or her salt will tell you, giving space for the countervailing viewpoint is important in any good story.