Heart of the Nation

The iconic view is gone, unsettling mind and heart: The Capitol Dome has vanished under scaffolding and white sheets. Corroded in more than its cast iron roof, the foundation was laid by still-unacknowledged human slaves. Can it really be repaired?

I walk east to west through Capitol Hill. Across the city and here, too, L'Efant's architectural genius magnifies the integrity of clean and open air.

STOP, STOP, STOP command the clanking blockades rising from the roadbed to block phantom, bomb-laden trucks. The global Superpower on defense.

I walk past the Library of Congress, repository of history and deep learning. Is anybody there?

Then the Supreme Court, its neoclassical front still projecting the august majesty of law. But behind the façade sits the patiently packed Court, unleashing the toxic power of corporate and private fortune into the bloodstream of the public's sacred, fragile franchise.

I head across the quiet park toward the Senate, its offices occupied more fully than ever by voices for insatiable, moneyed appetites. John Adams knew them. "Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God's service when it is violating all his laws."

A starling fledgling totters in green grass, seeking grubs. A young squirrel nibbles on the narrow walk, eyeing my approach with alert caution. Her short life has taught that we humans are no threat; her instinct says otherwise. I pause to watch her nature-sculpted beauty. Her dark round eyes take me in.

I move, instinct prevails and she darts to a sheltering tree.

I walk parallel to close-spaced metal rods, designed to mimic hitching posts. Artful placement camouflages their purpose in the omnipresent war: Stop the bombers. Theirs, not ours.

The July heat hammers prematurely, 98 degrees, while in Congress' halls well-practiced liars deny the changing climate. I pass a black-clad guard -- shirt, pants, flak jacket, and assault rifle. His forearms glisten sweat. I comment on the heat as he sizes me up -- terrorist? Deciding "no" he relaxes, we exchange a few words and he shows his human heart.

The Dirksen Senate Building. I glance at first floor windows. Yes, on this dignified structure the paint is flaking, dry-rot setting in. Inside, staffers climb the political ladder by applying their young, bright minds to accelerating strategies to destroy nature and human hope.

I head for the subway at Union Station. A coal black man sits by a fountain, gratefully accepting a $10 bill. Exchanging greetings, our eyes connect, and we know a moment of truth.

Yesterday I was told by a former assistant U.S. Attorney that the nation's largest single center for the mentally ill is the Los Angeles County Jail. On visiting, as word spread that she was a lawyer, a howl went up throughout the sprawling, bed-cramped hall, "a howl of wild dogs".

This night I sit with two friends watching a general access TV show -- a "comedy" about a Jewish misfit wife, married into New York money. Most of the program, with its potential to inform, educate and ennoble the women, men and children watching, focuses on the in-laws' insistence she offer her husband "anal". Initially resistant, in the end she presents him with her ribbon-wrapped ass, and we see them struggle to consummate the act, her voice rising in pain.

Earlier at the Capitol, I glance west. Through thick foliage Lincoln is invisible and only the tip of the Washington Memorial appears. I look, then look again, suddenly absorbing the possibility that the Monument -- honoring one deeply principled, deeply compromised, stunningly courageous and indomitable man, exemplifying a young nation's spirit -- is sinking to ignominy.