The following vigils were chosen to highlight places along our route where violence has happened and/or where people are working towards non-violence.
1. The Battlegreen – Lexington, MA
History: The Battlegreen is the site of the very first battle of the American Revolution. About 80 militiamen, mostly farmers, met a regiment of nearly 1,200 British Regulars on the Lexington Green in the early morning hours of April, 19, 1775 who were marching west to destroy a rebel supply of armaments at Concord. As the “Minutemen” as they were called, were being ordered to disperse the famed “shot heard ‘round the world” was fired, (by which side is still unknown to this day) sparking an exchange of fire that resulted in the deaths of eight militiamen…and the birth of America.
Significance: Robin and I grew up in Lexington. Difficult not to love America and its history when you’re told from knee-high you live in the “Birthplace of American Liberty” (as it says on the sign as you come into town). But it would be years before I equated my love for my country, my home, with any sense of responsibility to defend it. I was just really into the stories. It was growing up in a town where you could reach out and touch the history though, that inspired me to someday touch every corner of America I could.
2. Walden Pond – Concord , MA
History: Walden Pond was the temporary home of Henry David Thoreau for two years, two months, and two days from 1845-1847. It was here that he wrote his treatise on living a simple life in nature, Walden or A Life in the Woods that has and continues to inspire me to this day. But it was his manifesto on nonviolent protest, On Civil Disobedience that brought us to this quiet pond in the woods to honor him. This brief essay, written about a night Thoreau spent in jail for his refusal to pay his poll tax to protest slavery and the Mexican War provided the framework for Gandhi’s nonviolent Indian Independence Movement and informed Dr. King’s approach to the American Civil Rights Movement. It takes guts to choose prison rather than pay taxes to a government you don’t agree with. I wish I could follow the dollars I drop obliviously to tax on dinner, or at the store, to see if they’re the lucky few that become textbooks for public school students. Or if, more likely I imagine, they became the hammered steel of a half-ton bomb that’s been dropped on some anonymous village in Iraq or Afghanistan.
3. Old State House – Boston, MA
History: Beneath the balcony of the Old State House lies a traffic island in the middle of State St., (formerly King St., in the days of the British Colonies). There a circle of cobblestones mark the site of the so-called “Boston Massacre.” Here, on March 5, 1770, a group of British soldiers, being threatened and attacked by an angry mob of hundreds, fired into the crowd, killing five. The event was immortalized by an engraving made by Paul Revere, a Son of Liberty who would ride to fame five years later to sound the alarm that British soldiers were headed to Lexington and Concord.
Significance: Boston is the motherland of American history. Though we could have held our vigil at any of a hundred sites, we chose this event because even though it was five years before the battle at Lexington, it was arguably the first blood shed in the American Revolution. What makes it truly worthy of note though, is that according to eye-witness accounts, the first man to fall was a man of mixed African-American and Native-American ancestry, Crispus Attucks. If it is fair to argue that the American Revolution was fought for the cause of freedom, then it can be said that the first blood to be spilled for American liberty was the blood of the two races that have been denied that freedom most in the history of this country. To add to that, the man who defended the six soldiers who were subsequently tried for murder would become our second president – John Adams. No lawyer would touch that defense for fear of being ridden out of Boston on a rail. But Adams, realizing the moral imperative of providing a fair trial to all defendants – one of the most fundamental tenets of any democratic system of government – nearly sacrificed his career to do what was right, to do what was American, though America did not yet exist. Where do we look to find that kind of foresight, that kind of principled, uncompromising leadership today?
4. Main St. – Lewiston, ME
On this street in the early morning hours of March 3, 2002, our friend, Morgan McDuffee was killed while coming to the aid of his friends. He was on his way home with his brother and fiancée when they came upon a group of locals beating up some of Morgan’s friends. As Morgan ran into the fight he was stabbed several times by a man he had never met. He died later in the hospital. Morgan's death, shocking and devastating as it was, really turned our attention away from the war out there, and back to the violence here in America. The NO WAR Project was originally intended to be a statement against war, most immediately, the War on Terror, begun in response to 9/11. When Morgan was killed, in Maine of all places, where the state slogan is "Vacationland," we realized that violence happens everyday, every hour, in every corner of America. Be it domestic violence, gang violence, hate crimes, school shootings, the real war we realized, is in our own streets, in our own homes, our own schools. If you think we're not at war at home, think again. In 2005 alone, there were over 10,000 homicides with firearms. This doesn't count fatal muggings, stabbings, (of which Morgan was a victim), or anything else, just guns. 10,000 American soldiers haven't been killed on the battlefield in four years of war in Iraq, not even half that many. This is supposed to be the greatest country in the world, with the highest standard of living anywhere. So why are we dying by the tens of thousands each year at our own hands?
5. Granny D's House - Dublin, NH
Dorris Haddock aka "Granny D" decided in 1999 that she's had enough of unregulated campaign contributions and "soft" money in politics. So she let her feet do the talking and set out from Los Angeles on a 3,200 mile hike to the Capitol in Washington to rile up support for campaign finance reform. She was 89 years old!!! She walked ten miles a day for fourteen months, only sleeping when a bed was offered, only eating when food was given. She hiked a thousand miles through the desert, over the Appalachian Mountains in blizzard conditions, and even skied 100 miles when a record snowfall closed down the roads through West Virginia. Needless to say, Granny D is one American hero we hold in the highest regard. She epitomizes what the NO WAR Project was all about - doing what you can do. Taking the initiative to get out and do something! Having financial backing is great. Getting aligned with an organization of like mind that can support you is even better. But if the spirit moves you and a mission calls, you have to act, or the moment's gone, and life has a way of making you forget. That's enough of my rant...But Granny D is the real deal. We honored her by driving to her house (with helpful directions from locals) and presented her with a flag and candle, which she tacked up outside her front door. She made us lunch (PB&J with the crusts cut off) and hooked us up with every media contact she'd made. We gave her a tour of Stella and then she sent us on our way with a "Go get 'em" that would have made the Gipper proud. When we'd finished the first half of the project completing "WAR" (we traveled the route backward out of Boston: R-A-W) we knew the US was headed into Iraq. We could no longer drive Stella using all that gas when we knew the war was about oil. So we hiked (west to east this time: N-O). We got from Santa Barbara to San Francisco. But when we ran out of money again we came back home kind of down and out and called Granny D to ask her advice. She invited us back up to Dublin for lunch. I said, "Granny, we know we're having an effect on the people we meet and talk to. But I wonder what happens once we leave. If people just go back to living like they did before they met us, we're not having the effect we're after. How can we know we're creating tangible change?" To which, in her infinite wisdom, she answered without hesitation: "Get people registered to vote." So we set back out on a new mission. We got back in the van, reluctantly. But like I said, if you wait for conditions to be perfect, the moment's gone, the mission's lost. Let the critics criticize once you've actually done something. I painted on the side of Stella: REGISTER TO VOTE HERE. We downloaded National Voter Registration forms and set out to complete the "NO" portion of our journey from San Fran. Along the way we got about 50 people registered. It wasn't a killing, but it was concrete evidence we were creating change. I read just recently that after our second meeting, Granny D set out on her own 22,000 mile journey across America getting people registered to vote in an RV painted up kind of like our van. I'm not even going to hypothesize what inspired her to do such a thing. But I'd like to believe, with all the help and inspiration she gave us, we might have played a small part in inspiring her....maybe.
6. United Nations - New York, NY
For all of the criticism that has been heaped upon the United Nations, we still believe the UN represents the world's best hope for real, lasting peace. If not, at least it serves the purpose of bringing the world community together to the table to talk. And as long as people are communicating there's at least a chance for peace. Our choosing this site for a vigil goes a bit further. It's no coincidence the United Nations Headquarters is situated in the US. At the time of its founding, the US was the best place for it - a burgeoning democracy that represented the highest hopes and dreams of civilization. A country that would defend itself if needed, yet seemed truly committed to the pursuit of world peace and goodwill toward its neighbors. Sadly, that was long ago. With the new policy of preemptive war America's course is compromising the legitimacy of the only legitimate world body. It's no coincidence that when the world lost faith in America's mission, it also lost faith in the UN. We are a truly interconnected, interdependent world. Nowhere is this more evident than at the UN that when one country pursues the wrong path all nations are adversely affected.
We planned originally to hold our vigil at the Japanese Peace Bell on the grounds of the UN. The bell, a gift from the nation of Japan to the UN, of which it was not yet a member, was meant to symbolize the hope for peace not just between Japan and its neighbors, but for the whole world. The bell was cast from coins collected by Japanese children, and the stones upon which it sits were donated by Israel. The inscription on the side, written in Japanese characters reads: Long live absolute world peace. We feel there is no more apt monument to peace. Donated in 1954, only a few years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to an organization headquartered in the country that delivered that horror speaks volumes about the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. Unfortunately, in the post-9/11 world, visitors are not allowed anywhere near the Peace Bell, or the UN Building itself. Security wouldn't even let us set up the tripod for a good picture. So instead, we opted to hold our vigil by the sculpture of the Twisted Gun. There are few sculptures that state their purpose as clearly as a .45 caliber revolver with the barrel twisted into a knot. We thought the message was pretty clear, and pretty accessible, so that's where we placed our flag, lit our candle, and prayed.
7. Ground Zero - New York, NY
We got to Ground Zero nearly ten months after the attacks. It was a hole about a quarter mile across and six stories deep. Some of the damaged buildings around it were shaded in shrouds to cover the scars. Others weren't touched at all. It was the most inconceivable site I've ever witnessed. In the heart of the busiest district in the busiest city in the entire world there was just an enormous hole. But you couldn't look at it any other way than as hallowed ground. Where 3,000 laid there now was nothing. There was less than nothing. So much more was lost that day. It made me think of Sept. 10. When the world was just the same as it had been. There was trouble and problems all over, but the world was the same. 9/11 flipped the world on its head, and we've not recovered. I don't know if we ever will. Thinking all of this, standing there, kneeling before the two tall candles we'd bought for this, the most essential vigil of our mission I began to weep. I wept for the people who flung themselves from the windows of the burning floors in their final act of free will. I wept for the passengers on the planes. I wept for the people down below who ran in horror as the dust around them surrounded. And for those who will suffer on in the years to come. And for the innocents who will pay for the deed that was done. And I wept for the death of my home.
8. Strawberry Fields - New York, NY
This section of Central Park West was dedicated to the memory of John Lennon on his birthday in 1985, five years after he had been murdered in the main entrance to his apartment building, the Dakota, situated just across the street. We admire John Lennon for one simple reason: he was real. He never claimed to be perfect. He never claimed he was a role model. He never claimed he was the figurehead of any movement. What he did was what he knew he could for the only cause that meant anything to him: peace. He was a drinker and a drug user and he was even rumored to have gotten into a few scraps, even after he began his involvement in the peace movement. But the way we see it, John Lennon was simply a man doing the best he could. And anyone who can bring as much press as he did just by staying in bed is a guy we can all look up to. We visited Strawberry Fields after being in New York a few days, trucking around with packs on our backs and our camera at the ready, crashing out in the van in a lot under the Brooklyn Bridge at night. You won't find a more peaceful place in all of Manhattan. People were sitting around on the park benches while a guy played the guitar, that was all. We walked up to the mosaic, lit our candle, planted our flag, and no one really seemed to notice or care much what we were doing as no doubt, millions have left similar tributes before. So it seemed kind of par for the course, any average day at Strawberry Fields. But in the hustle of New York, a place that's a bit too busy for me, it was the kind of place I really didn't want to leave, ever. It was like walking into a Zen Garden. Everyone's voices automatically soften, their gaits slow, and you really get the sense people are following the instruction in the word in the middle of the mosaic: IMAGINE.
9. Federal Hall - New York, NY
This was the very first capitol of the USA, and the site where George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the United States. But the reason we stopped here was not so much for the place, but what Washington said there. He said that the United States was "an experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people." That is truly one of the most profound statements ever made about our country, and about the responsibility of its citizens. So many see America as immortal, indestructable, the lone superpower in the world. We seem to overlook that the world has only known our country for a bit over 200 years. And that, far from indomitable, our country was an idea, remains an idea, that remains only as strong as its peoples' commitment to it. In a time when a label of "empire" is not far off the mark, we have to look to the past to find what has befallen every empire the earth has seen - eventual but unavoidable destruction. As the world's lone superpower, (for now anyway) we have to hold fast to the ideals we were founded on or a similar fate is not only possible, it's already in the works. I'm not sure anyone knows what happens to a society that remains a democracy indefinitely because I'm not sure it's ever really happened. So America is an experiment, and it's on each of us to stand up and do what we can to preserve the free and compassionate society we set out to be.
It's more than a little ironic, (and not overlooked by the placement of our flag at this site) that the street the Federal Hall sits on is Wall St, literally across the street from the New York Stock Exchange. I'm not going to pontificate, but it's pretty clear that there's no shorter route to catastrophe for any nation than the obsessive pursuit of wealth at any cost. At the expense of its citizens, the environment, relationships with other nations, etc, it seems that America, government and big-business alike, are willing to sell whatever they have to downstream to hold the farm. You can't build meaningful relationships based solely on profit. When Washington delivered his inaugural address the US was flat broke. I'm not suggesting we go back there. But I am saying that the true success of any democracy cannot be measured from the bottom line alone.
10. Ellis Island - New York, NY
We held more vigils in New York City than in any other place in America. It's fitting of course. New York has more history, more stories that are essential to who we are as Americans than any other single spot in this country. There is perhaps no more essential story to the growth and success of the US than the story of its immigrants. While I'm sure this isn't news to anybody, unless you're of native ancestry, every one of us somewhere back down the line in our own stories came here from somewhere else. Again, this seems obvious, but it bears repeating to remind us that each one of us has equal right to the land, the water, the air, and the opportunity this country affords, no matter the color of your skin, or how long you've been here, period. We see it time and again, new groups of immigrants get dumped on as 'invaders' or 'foreigners.' I hear the talk all the time. Boston, our beloved home God bless it, is probably the most provincial city you'll ever visit. This city is so segregated, so split into sections according to race and nationality that at times, bouncing from one neighborhood to the next, it's like globe-trotting in a world where all the houses look the same. And every one of our forefathers got it, unless your ancestors came over on the Mayflower, in which case they had their own problems to deal with invading the territory of the Native Americans who were already here. So why the debate, every year over immigration? Should everyone who wishes to live in this country be legal? Absolutely. But with the limits imposed and the quotas enforced, if your family could have a better life by you hopping a fence to break your back for a job that paid decent wages, wouldn't you hop it? Obviously the system needs fixing. But the nationalist sentiment that so often dominates the argument seems so utterly misplaced as to appeal only to our lowest protectionist, isolationist sensibilities. My own family learned just recently that my great-grandfather, who arrived in America on a Merchant Marine ship from Norway, only joined the MMs with the express purpose of jumping ship at the first moment the boat docked here. Being the blood of an illegal immigrant, you'd be hard pressed to find one more proud of his country or more committed to seeing it succeed. And something tells me I'm not the only one of pale complexion with a story like this. The point is not how you got here, but what you contribute once you get here. And from one look at the fifty or so nationalities that were represented just on the ferry that took us out to the island, America's story, its livelihood, has been enhanced by those who have struggled to establish a life here, not diminished.
11. Independence Hall - Philadelphia, PA
We'd initially intended to hold our vigil at the Liberty Bell. A symbol that spoke to us not for its historical significance as the bell that was wrung in the steeple of Independence Hall the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, but for the fact that, no matter how many times they cast and recast it, it always broke. It seemed a fitting symbol for the imperfect nature of liberty and equality, which in their application throughout American history, have always seemed to bear the battle scar the bell most improbably has worn. But we'd no sooner gotten our backpacks open and were pulling out the flag when we were approached by two park rangers who told us, in no uncertain terms, we'd best roll our flag back up and get gone. Being confronted like that always brings out the smart ass, middle school punk in me. I'm not proud of it, it's something I'm working on. "Isn't this a public sidewalk?" I asked (with personality). "No," she stated. "This is National Park property." To which, dumbfounded, Robin and I tried to plead our case that we were merely placing a 15" flag and a tea light which, if they saw fit, they could remove upon our departure. "No." "No?" "No. If you wish to demonstrate in front of the bell you'll have to get a First Amendment permit from the Park Commissioner." "A First Ammendment permit?" Maybe we were naive, but up until that moment, neither Robin or I had really considered that what we were doing was exercising our Constitutional right to free speech. "Are you serious?" Stone face. Well that amped Robin up something awful, but in the interest of completing our mission, which was less than 1,000 miles old, and staying out of jail, we opted to move along and head back to the van. Which was a good idea considering one of the side windows had been smashed out the night before while we'd been parked on Park Avenue (?!!!) staying with friends our last night in New York.
The next morning we regrouped. Fully refreshed from the 100+ degree night that forced me to desperately shower in a sprinkler on the lawn in front of Independence Hall, we agreed that holding our vigil in front of the Hall would not be a poor consolation. After all, it was in that hall that the Declaration had been debated and ultimately signed during the Second Continental Congress, and heard for the first time by eager colonists with revolution on the brain. And being that the document, at least in words called for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all, we reconciled that it was the ideas that were important to highlight as opposed to the problems with their being carried out throughout history. But with the Park Service all around, we were forced to operate in stealth mode, which was really a shame. I'd have liked the opportunity to marinate on that one for a while there in front of the hall where some of the greatest minds in history came together at the dusk of one era to literally create by mind, voice, and hand the dawning of a new one. Due to the fallout from 9/11, the Hall was closed to visitors anyway. So we ran up when they weren't looking, stuck the flag in between two cobblestones, lit the candle and ran like hell. The prayer was said silently departing.
12. Former Site of the Home of Thomas Garrett - Wilmington, DE
American history, as it's taught in the public school system so celebrates the Forefathers and what are considered the truly consequential moments that many of the lesser known moments and heroes are kind of left in the historical dust. One such hero was Thomas Garrett. Throughout the period leading up to and including the Civil War, Garrett, a Quaker and an ardent abolitionist, left his family's homestead in free Pennsylvania to move to Delaware, a slave-state, to aid in the secret system of slave emancipation known as the Underground Railroad. As a "stationmaster" on the last stop in the state he helped over 2,000 slaves escape to freedom. Even after he was convicted and fined for openly defying Slave Laws he continued to aid those escaping the south for liberty across Delaware's northern border. When he died his body was carried by freed blacks who referred to him as "Our Moses" to his grave. Like many of America's lesser known treasures before the age of historical preservation, all that remains of Garrett's house is an historical marker which tells in brief, the story of a man who did so much for the cause of freedom. Truly, the brother of all men.
13. Indian Embassy - Washington, DC
Having just arrived in DC we were rolling down Massachusetts Avenue, the road which it appears houses most of the foreign embassies in Washington when we passed, in front of the Indian Embassy, a 12' statue of Mahatma Gandhi. The Indian Embassy was not on our vigil list, but when you're on a journey for peace and you pass a statue of Gandhi karma dictates you stop and pay homage. Besides, NO WAR means an end to war everywhere, not just the War on Terror, and in the summer of 2002 India and Pakistan were hurling nuclear threats at each other over Kashmir again. It seemed probable that if anyone ever again pushed the button it would most likely be in the area of these two countries which, up to Gandhi's time, had existed under one flag. The only thing scarier and more provocative than saber rattling is nuclear-trigger rattling. We felt it would be appropriate to leave our flag and candle by the statue of the one who preached nonviolence to remind those in the embassy of the power of patience, and of their legacy to the world as perhaps the only country in history whose sovereignty had been struggled for and established on nonviolent principles.
14. Vietnam War Memorial - Washington DC
Though controversial when it was dedicated, "the Wall" is one of the most powerful reminders in the world of the cost of war. Upon visiting the wall, it's virtually impossible not to feel emotional. Foremost among these emotions - and probably the reason the memorial is so controversial - is shame. It was hard to face my own image in that mirrored stone, among the rows of names of the brave who were killed, and not feel ashamed that my country allowed so many to die in a conflict whose purpose and meaning remain unclear to this day.
To interact with the memorial is to feel the way we on the home front experience the process of war. As you approach the wall, (at the onset of war) you're aware mostly of the landscape around you. The green grass of the National Mall, the trees in bloom, the open space and pleasant air. This is how we enter any war. We hear about it, but it's too distant, too hypothetical to understand the reality of the cost of war. We're still focused on the world at home. Our day to day lives are not immediately impacted. But before you know it, slowly yet unavoidably as the war wears on, you begin to feel as part of a collective - a tangible depression. This is the initial descent along the wall toward the center of the memorial. When you first notice the black wall rising alongside you. It's only at your feet, not imposing, but as you descend the wall begins to rise. Then the names begin to appear on the face of the wall like they do in the pages of the newspaper. First a couple names, the wall not yet knee high. Then more. And more as the wall climbs to waist height. You begin to make out the lettering, to read the names, one or two. Yet they remain, as they do in any war for a time unless you recognize one - devoid of real impact. Just names in the paper. Just names on a wall. It's not until the wall reaches chest high, (after the war has worn on for a few years) that you become aware you're walking downhill. And you see that it goes down further, and you begin to perceive that the wall is growing. Growing to accommodate the names. You can look away of course, toward the Mall and the sun and the day, as we at home can choose to ignore what's happening overseas. But as the mounting body count demands your attention, the wall draws that attention toward a confrontation you begin to know is coming. These aren't just names, you realize. These people are dead. You can no longer look away because as the numbers grow, the wall grows, over your head now, row after row, stacked one atop the other. Like body bags.
The path leads downward still. By the time you reach the bottom at the deepest point in the memorial, (collective reckoning with the war) the names rise far over your head, nearly twice your height. That's when it hits you. The world around you disappears. Only the black face of death remains before you. You're trapped in a hole. The shear wall offers no cracks or holds by which to climb out and escape. Just thousands upon thousands of names of the dead. Names you may not recognize yet realize are connected to you. Your eye scans patiently from top to bottom. And as your eyes meet your reflection staring back at you the names disappear, and you're there alone. Confronted only by yourself. You're inside the wall looking back at yourself. And you remember the day behind you. The beautiful summer day. You feel the beauty of the days stolen from the soldiers, the boys who died before living them. And the shame settles in, like the black stone is crumbling down on you. And you wish to God there was something you could do. Something to relieve that suffering, something to bring back those days, to return them to those that were lost. To make sure it never happens again. But you can't. Their names are etched in stone.
You take a deep breath. You walk the full length of the memorial, somehow feeling obligated to do so. Slowly, to honor the fallen. You head upward as the path ascends and the wall gets smaller. Your reflection disappears. The grass of the Mall appears again. The war is over. You feel heavy but it lightens, little by little with each step as you walk away. You turn to give a last look. To remind yourself what you've just experienced. And you notice all the people - visitors to the Wall. A hundred of them, maybe more. Old women, babies in strollers, veterans decorated in ribbons, families standing together. And you wonder if they see themselves in the wall. If they understand the horror of what happened, of what's still happening today. If they recognize the names as their own. Or if they're just visiting the memorial. On their way to other memorials.
15. The White House - Washington, DC
We couldn't leave Washington without stopping here. When George W. Bush was elected the first time, my first thought was: "God help us." My second thought was: "What can he possibly do in four years?" We got that answer. In the near future, our children will look back on this time in their history books as some of the darkest days America ever saw. I can't think of a time in the history books I've read when America veered further off course than under the reign of President Bush. Two centuries of democratic principles have been rolled back under this president. Corrupt elections, war-mongering under the guise of defense, torture, spying on our own citizens, systematic environmental deregulation, and the abandonment of the poor and underprivileged as their numbers grow. Ours is not the leader of the Free World; ours is a war-criminal, a corrupt CEO running insider trading schemes while the people that keep this country afloat are left footing the bill.
Still, no single person can wholly subvert the democratic principles our forefathers fought to establish in this country without help from an apathetic society. There's something very directly democratic about being able to walk up to the door, (or at least the fence) of your elected leader to leave him a reminder that the silent majority is not going softly away. I have no misconceptions that Mr. Bush has or will ever see the flag and candle we left outside his fence. Or that he would be able to wrap his feeble mind around what they meant if he did. But symbols have power. Did veterans throwing service medals onto the steps of Congress stop the Vietnam War? But sometimes the simplest gestures can have profound impacts on the national psyche, or sometimes more importantly, on an individual. And the power of one person in a democracy can be profound. Ask the guy sitting in the Oval Office.
16. Yorktown Battlefield - Yorktown, VA
The significance of this site to our purpose has been disputed. Why recognize a battlefield when the purpose of our project is peace? We didn't seek to glorify violence by holding a vigil at the site of the last major battle of the American Revolution. What we were aiming at was to show that anything is possible. If odds-makers had been able to set the over-under in April of 1775 on the chances a set of loosely affiliated colonies with no army at the time would be able to topple the most powerful military the world had ever seen, there would have been some broke bookies after Yorktown. History tells us when Gen. Cornwallis' army surrendered to Washington and his troops, as they marched between the American lines the British drummers played "The World Turned Upside Down" in utter disbelief that they had been beaten. I like to picture a similar scene: All the people of America, in every city and town, lining the streets as the military parades through with our own nuclear arsenal on flat-bed trucks on their way to a permanent landfill somewhere. The people cheer and wave flags like the Fourth of July in celebration that the day has finally come to bring these weapons of mass destruction to be discarded permanently. Till the end of time.
17. Jamestown National Historic Site - Jamestown, VA
The true story of America is best expressed as the tension between this country's ideas and its actions. And by examining the inconsistencies and ironies found within them. So it's fitting that the first permanent English settlement in America should by its own story express that tension. The men who founded Jamestown did so in search of riches. They were after gold. They were so poorly prepared for the reality of the situation they found there, that within three years of founding the settlement over three quarters of them had died. There were already of course plenty of settlements in the New World - entire societies of Native Americans had been living around Jamestown for centuries. Who became known to the new settlers within hours of landing, when they found themselves in a skirmish with them, setting the tone for white/Amer-Indian relations for the next four centuries.
So it's safe to say that the very first Euro-Americans, like the many millions of immigrants that followed them, came to this land in search of wealth and opportunity. And shortly after arriving, had begun subjugating others to serve that purpose. Only twelve years after arriving, in 1619, the very first African-American slaves that were brought to America were imported at Jamestown. The "peculiar institution" that would exist for 250 years in this country was begun in the same place we celebrate as the birthplace of the United States. This is most relevant in the way we educate our youth about the land in which they live. Hero and patriotic worship first, questions later. It's true that Columbus opened up the New World to permanent European settlement and ultimately, to the establishment of this nation. It's also true that he was responsible for the annihilation of millions of native islanders in the Caribbean. Yet we celebrate his legacy as if he dared to sail off the edge of the earth for the benefit of all mankind. The US Constitution is the most solid foundation for representative government in the history of humankind. But it failed to represent the people most responsible for the growth of this country. The Capitol Building itself was built brick by brick by black slaves. But it was the very same document that was cited by abolitionists that repealed the practice of slavery. The story of America is written in equal parts idealism, pragmatism, greed, hope, and prejudice. At different times each has won out over the other. But it's understanding that these disparate motives are in constant struggle that enables us to learn from our history, to more effectively determine our future.
18. Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia - Norfolk, VA
When we initially planned the vigil sites our intention was to highlight only where violence had occurred, in an effort to say, "enough is enough." But to do justice to America's history which is not just one-sided or completely negative, we decided it was equally important to showcase places where people had or were still doing good things for America. Stella broke down in VA Beach (thankfully on our friends' street (!!!) where we held up nearly a month to fix the clutch. Master cylinder failed, was fixed, and on the way out of the parking lot the slave cylinder went - true story). So for a month we crashed on Scott and Rachel's couch while they lived around us. Rachel worked as a fundraiser for a foodbank in Norfolk. We were curious about what went on there from the way she would talk about it. So we went down there with Rachel one Sunday morning and volunteered preparing the food items into bundles to be handed out. We were surprised and impressed to witness all that goes into the process: the liasons in the offices networking to get the food donated, the work in the warehouse where it's stored, the regular volunteers who give their time to make sure others in their community don't go hungry. Most of all, I was blown away by the number of people just this one foodbank served. There were hundreds of folks that depended on that work and that supply line to be there so they could eat. For the most part in America, we take our food for granted. It was mind-blowing to find so many people within our own borders to whom find just finding food to eat is a full-time job.
19. The King Center - Atlanta, GA
There is hardly a superlative that can be heaped on Dr. King that has not been used a thousand times before. Yet I think he may be one of the most misinterpreted figures in our nation's history. Many make the mistake of classifying his role in the Civil Rights Movement as being a proponent for the disenfranchised African American community. But when we listen to Dr. King's words we see quickly that he was not fighting merely for the rights of black people. He was fighting for everyone - the disenfranchised as well as the underrepresented, the impoverished, the undereducated. He was speaking on behalf of all America when he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech, calling on the people of this nation to recognize the unavoidable truth - that we will find peace and equality within one another, or we will perish from the earth. His may be the ultimate example of what is possible when someone dedicates their life to overcoming ignorance and hatred for the betterment of all. But his death at the hands of an assassin was so devastating and significant that our first inclination was to hold the vigil at the old Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, where King was gunned down, now the National Civil Rights Museum. But citing the tragic nature of King's death seemed misguided when we consider how the whole of his life's work lifted the nation out of the throes of bigotry and even today challenges each one of us to rise above our prejudice and look beyond ourselves toward a common goal for humanity. We opted instead to honor Dr. King where he was born, raised, and began preaching. To demonstrate, when you look at the meager beginnings of one so great, that King was perhaps not the "chosen one" as he has been anointed by the generations that followed his death. Like most men, he wasn't given a vision from God, at least not in the biblical sense. He acquired it from his environment and the things he perceived as unjust. It was his fierce work and belief in himself that made him great. Qualities that are attainable to anyone who pays close attention to the world around him, commits himself to a cause, and works for what he believes in, (or she). In essence, King's legacy is so unique because he was not. He could have been any one of us. He paved his own path to freedom, and along the way gathered enough strength in his convictions to carry the hopes and dreams of a nation with him.
While we admire King for more reasons than we can list here, it was his staunch and unwavering resistance to the Vietnam War that most exemplifies his tenacious spirit and undaunted courage. That he was willing to put his own reputation on the line, as well as to draw attention away from the Civil Rights Movement he led to oppose a war so morally reprehensible he believed his was a fight to save the very soul of America. The King quote that most inspired me, and provided continuous inspiration during the long two years we spent on the road, was delivered in the speech "Beyond Vietnam," which he gave at the Riverside Church in New York City in 1967. Referring to the Langston Hughes poem, "Let America Be America Again" that reads: "America never was America to me / and yet I swear this oath - / America will be!" King reasoned: "So it is that those of us who are yet determined that 'America will be' are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land." The idea that we could be part of the "we" that King spoke of, part of that lineage of activists - true believers in this nation's mission, working to heal a broken nation, to safeguard its soul, to this day brings such a powerful wave of emotion over me as to render me speechless.
20. Old Capital of the Cherokee Nation - New Echota, GA
In 1830, with the passing of the Indian Removal Act, almost every tribe of Native Americans east of the Mississippi River was forcibly removed from their native homelands and forced to march west into the Indian Territory, what is today the state of Oklahoma. The Cherokee Nation fought the hardest to defend their rights to their sovereign land. And they fought, not as other tribes like the Seminole or Creek, through a series of armed conflicts. They realized the use of force was futile against their adversary. So they worked instead to assimilate, as well as they could to the culture that surrounded them. They adopted the clothing of their American counterparts. They built, roads, schools, churches, even adopted a representative style of government to ward off stereotypes that they were a tribe of "savages." Even when gold was discovered on Cherokee lands placing added pressure on the tribe to clear off they did not use force. Instead they appealed to the US Supreme Court to hear reason in the matter. In Worcester v. Georgia Chief Justice John Marshall decided that the Cherokee were a sovereign nation with rights to their lands. Only a treaty signed by the Cherokee could cede their lands to government control. President Andrew Jackson, an ardent proponent for removal is famously quoted as responding to the verdict, "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it." As was typical of the many backhanded deals between the US Government and Indian tribes throughout history, a treaty was eventually signed by individuals representing a very small contingent of removal advocates (less than 500 out of 17,000 Cherokee) and despite strong dissent from members of Congress, (Tennessee Congressman David Crockett foremost among them) President Jackson forced the Treaty of New Echota through by a single vote. Less than three years after it was signed, Jackson sent 7,000 troops into Cherokee lands to forcibly remove the tribe to Indian Territory. Through the winter of 1838-39 over 16,000 Cherokee were forced to march west. Over 4,000 of them died along the way. This coerced migration is referred to as "the Trail of Tears."
We visited both the beginning and the end of the Trail of Tears - New Echota, the old Capital of the Nation, and where the treaty was signed that ceded their lands to the US Government; and Tahlequah, the present day Capital in Oklahoma. New Echota is a small historical site now with a few refurbished and replica buildings that provide little clue as to how the Cherokee Nation lived and operated in its heyday. The only aspect of this place of any relevance is the map that showed the former borders of Cherokee lands stretching from as far north as North Carolina, west to Tennessee and south to Georgia. I imagined what all that land must have looked like with less than 20,000 people living on it. Now it's just rural roadside, a half-mile off an interstate. A golf course abuts the historic site on the opposite side of the road.
21. 9/11 Memorial Vigil - Lexington, KY
One year after 9/11 Robin and I arrived in Lexington, KY. Though I didn't know it at the time, Lexington, KY was named by 18th Century settlers in honor of the Revolutionary Battle of Lexington. Just the same it felt strange to be so far from home in a place with the same name as home, where we had experienced 9/11 a year earlier. We pulled into town at sundown and grabbed a paper hoping to find some mention of memorial services that might be going on. It only felt right to share that day with others. I was hoping to find some vigil we could attend. Not to remember that day. For the first year 9/11 was with me every day. I didn't need an event to bring those images back, they were with me all the time. No, I wanted an opportunity to retrace my steps. To stand with others like the night I had in Somerville when I saw the graffiti on the sidewalk that had sparked the idea that had set us off on this course. I wanted to assess how far we'd come, and stand silently with those thoughts for a while, amidst the collective grief of those who were a thousand miles away when it happened, maybe to reassure myself in their saddened faces that we were doing the right thing.
We didn't find anything in the papers. And no one that we asked in the strip mall we were parked in to give the van and us a rest knew of anything. So, exhausted from the drive up from Georgia, we crashed out in the back of the bus for the night, right there in that parking lot next to the Sonic. In the paper the next morning there was a front-page photo of the largest vigil that had been held the night before at a race track called the "Red Mile". So we drove over there after breakfast just to get a feel for what it might have looked like. When we got there the whole place was empty bu for a few horse and buggy racers practicing laps. But set up in the grassy area in the middle of the track were empty chairs, thousands of them it looked like, some standing, some broken down, with hundreds of miniature American flags littered across the grounds. When we walked up to get a closer look we met a guy who told us that there were actually 3,000 chairs set up, one for every person who was killed on 9/11. He had spent two days putting them up, and now it was his job to break them down. We told him about the project we were on and why we were there and he told us to take as long as we wanted, that he was having a really hard time breaking them down. He felt like it should stay up a while, that it was too powerful to have only be experienced for one night. Upon closer inspection, we saw that each chair was labeled with a victim's name. They were in completely random order, the black and white color of the chairs meant to signify that all were affected, regardless of race. Before he would lay the chairs down he made it a point to remove each name, and the pile of paper in his hand really for the first time drove home how widespread the grief from that day had reached. Coming from Boston, where the planes had taken off that destroyed the towers, it was natural to claim the attacks as our own. As something that was distinctly northeastern. But here was a maintenance worker in Kentucky, a full year later, who was having the hardest time of his life removing names of people he never knew from random collapsible chairs in the middle of a horse race track because the memory of that day and what it meant was still too fresh, burned too deep to just go about his job like he was expected to. The way he paid reverence to those pieces of taped paper as he removed them reminded me of the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington. It was pure respect for the unknown fallen. Civilian for civilian, innocent to innocent.
As we walked among the chairs the significance of 9/11 sank in deeper than it ever had to me. We hear numbers on the news of casualties daily. 3,000 in the attacks; 4,000 soldiers in Iraq. But numbers, no matter how high they sound don't tell the truth, don't carry the weight of what those numbers mean, of how many 3,000 really is. Wandering row through row, chair to chair though, they seemed endless. I wondered what the effect would have been had they been rubber bags instead of chairs. I wondered if anyone could walk through that and still want war. Robin, who walked off in the other direction, so that we were probably fifty yards apart and still both immersed in chairs, had begun picking up the flags. She was silently standing with fifty or sixty of them in one hand, and a piece of paper in the other, one of the name tags. She had found the name of a friend of her dad's who had been walking by the World Trade Center when rubble from one of the strikes had fallen and killed him. His name was David Rivard. I remembered before we'd left on the Project, passing through her parents' kitchen while her father sat with a woman he introduced as a very old friend. When the woman tried to correct him that truly, it was her husband that had first been friends with Goldie, her smile turned suddenly, and she began to sob uncontrollably. It was only later that Goldie explained that she was David's wife.
22. Harvestfest - Madison, WI
This was the second of three spur-of-the-moment vigils. We had been in Madison for nearly a month waiting on a new exhaust system to arrive in the mail so we could patch up Stella, quiet her down a bit, and continue on our way. It was well into autumn by that time, we had been on the road for four months and had only completed the 'R' and half an 'A'. The people who took us in were of the stellar sort though. They let us crash at their place the whole time we were there, sleeping in Stella in their driveway. Madison in general was very kind to us. We did a couple interviews with the college news and the local alternative news. And we did our first radio interview on the college radio station. For a couple weeks all the hoopla around Madison had been about this "Harvestfest." Apparently, there's a long and rich tradition of herb cultivation in and around Wisconsin's capital city. And the whole town was abuzz about some march down the main drag from the university up to the Capitol steps. They did it every year. Most cities, at this point, have some kind of day, ceremony, or gathering to celebrate marijuana and to protest the absurd laws, both state and federal, that have sent many an unfortunate user to prison for mere possession for sentences longer than real criminals have received for rape. The War on Drugs, study after study has shown, has been a total farce - a political stunt by politicians interested more in presenting the illusion of effective drug prevention than actually tackling the very real drug problem in America. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent since the drug war began in the 70s, yet today there are more drugs on America's streets than ever before. The question here is not whether or not you support the legalization, decriminalization, or even the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The question here is whether or not you support common sense. Mandatory minimums have overburdened our prison system with otherwise responsible citizens who happen to enjoy smoking a joint now and then. Little has been done in the way of providing rehabilitation services, or in slowing down demand. We're not advocating for across the board legalization like they have in some other countries. Many drugs like meth, or crack, or heroin have ruined entire communities all across this country and should never be legalized. What we're talking about is a common sense approach when dealing with the hundreds of thousands of responsible, productive citizens that enjoy marijuana everyday. So at the end of the march we placed our flag in a flower bed at the Capitol steps with a sticker on this one that read: "Stop the Drug War."
23. Mt. Zion Methodist Church - Philadelphia, MS
During the summer of 1964 thousands of volunteers, mostly northern white college students, descended on the south to encourage disenfranchised southern blacks to register to vote. The heaviest concentration of volunteers was in Mississippi where less than seven percent of eligible black voters were registered - the lowest rate in the country. Over 1,000 volunteers were arrested during that summer and many were beaten by police. But three civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner who were investigating the burning of the Mt. Zion Methodist Church, (one of many local black churches that were burned that summer) were murdered by local police in a Klan conspiracy. Their murders sparked nationwide outrage and galvanized support for the Civil Rights Movement.
The importance of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner cannot be overstated. These three young men followed their consciences into a hostile, and ultimately deadly environment to do what they believed was right. They did so knowing the social climate of the place they were heading into, as did the thousands of volunteers who spearheaded the effort to empower people who had been systematically denied rights for almost 100 years since the passing of the 15th Amendment in 1870. The truly tragic part is that the actions of an ignorant few can end the lives of people as valuable, compassionate, and committed as these three. Yet somehow, despite the destructive force of such ignorance, there power of inspiration seems stronger. Anytime someone with positive intention is knocked down it seems a hundred who heard the call rise up to carry on. This is why all the guns in the world cannot kill the human spirit.
We visited Mt. Zion late at night, about the time it would have been burned. We traveled a long dirt road to get there, passing trailer homes placed seemingly at random along the roadside. Their tenants seated out front beside open fires watched us suspiciously as we drove by. I can't imagine they get a lot of traffic down that road after the sun goes down. And with the bus painted the way it was, and with out-of-state plates they must have wondered just what the hell we were doing out there. To tell it plainly, we kind of shared their sentiment. From all of my experiences in Mississippi, (and they're not many, but perhaps enough to shape a general impression) I've gotten the sense that a suspicious sense abounds. There seems to be an undertone of distrust among the people, at least between the races. No doubt a legacy of the Jim Crow Era where the most egregious offenses were committed in the Deep South, the Freedom Summer murders being no exception. In fact the fallout from the murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner served to breed suspicion even between those on the same side. Black volunteers in Mississippi felt, and rightfully so, that the media attention for the murders was due solely to the fact that two of the workers killed were white. Whereas hundreds of black folks were lynched in the south merely for attempting to exercise their right to vote, or even just to walk down the street with their heads up, with no coverage from the national press, nor outrage from the general public. Though the murders of the three volunteers served as a catalyst for sweeping change on the national level, it was shown ultimately to be the beginning of the end of voter registration work in Mississippi during that summer.
24. The Gateway Arch - St. Louis, MO
The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (more commonly known as the "Gateway Arch") was built to commemorate Thomas Jefferson's vision to expand democracy "from sea to shining sea" and has become one of America's most recognizable symbols of freedom and ingenuity. But like many of America's most beloved symbols, there is more to the story than the symbol itself. Though it's hard to imagine an America that didn't stretch from coast to coast, 200 years ago it was not. And the prospect of North America being carved up into individual neighboring nations like in Europe was not so improbable. But the manner in which the original inhabitants of the western frontier were removed from their homelands is one of the darkest and most shameful chapters in US history. Perhaps even more shameful is how Native American groups are still treated today.
25. Highway 61 - Zwingle, IA
So much more than one of coolest songs ever written about a road, Highway 61 has quite literally changed the cultural landscape of the entire world. New Orleans to the Mississippi Delta, Memphis to St. Louis, Davenport to Chicago. The Great Migration of the post-war era saw millions of southern blacks heading north for better opportunities than the Jim Crow South offered. This forced integration of the north was in itself a tremendous and essential feat carried out by the courageous first wave of migrants, fed up with the hypocrisy of the South and risking it all to reestablish themselves as true Americans in a land that was just as much theirs as anyone's. But the musical traditions that they carried with them have had such an unparalleled affect on the history of music that none of what we listen to today would have been possible without this massive exodus. The jazz from New Orleans, the rural blues from the Delta that evolved into the electric blues of St. Louis and Chicago have influenced every popular artist of the last century. America has given a lot to the world at large, but no gift has had a larger, more lasting, or more positive effect than American roots music.
But why Zwingle, Iowa? Fair enough. This was the location of a friend's farmhouse we stayed at for a week to regroup and to plan our mode of attack for the upcoming mid-term election we knew we'd encounter full-tilt in Minneapolis. True, there were many places that would have held weightier historical existence to the history of American music than a tract of flat roadside in Iowa. It would be fair to chalk it up to poor planning. But really, our friends were so excited about our project, and we'd been helped out by so many kind folks by that time that we felt it was high time we gave something back. So we placed the flag and candle by the roadside where their dirt farm road met 61. That way, short of a highway maintenance crew coming along with their pointed sticks and trash bags our friends would enjoy the role they played in our journey for weeks and maybe months to come. Having no illusions about the fate of the evidence of our first 25 vigils, we were fairly certain if this one was appreciated past a single day it would be a first. And really, every section of road is as essential as the rest. What would have happened if old 61 ended right there in Iowa? Somehow I don't think "Sweet Home Zwingle" would have cut it.
26. Polling Station - Minneapolis, MN
VOTE!!! It is the absolute least any citizen must do to earn and maintain the right to live in this country. After that, your level of involvement or duty to your country can be discerned according to your passions. It's hard to keep track of all local elections, (though they probably have a more profound effect on your day to day life than the national elections, to tell a plain truth) and my own record is as poor as most on that point. But to vote for those up on the National Hill happens only once every two years, on the same day. Plenty of time to make plans to get there and make it happen. So seriously, do the least, people. Just do the least. This country would transform for the better overnight.
That being said, this election was particularly relevant, especially in Minnesota where the untimely death of the incumbent Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone just days before the election threw the entire balance of power in Senate up in the air. With no time to mount any real campaign, former VP Walter Mondale tried to step in to fill the void left by one of the nation's staunchest progressives. To no avail. Though the race was a dead heat, with counting lasting throughout the night, in the end Norm Coleman, the Republican challenger won the seat. This tipped the balance in the Senate to a Republican majority. Having run away with the House, the Republicans controlled the triumverate of power in the Federal Government - House, Senate, and White House, which meant that anything President Bush wanted for the next two years would be rubber-stamped. What he wanted, as we would soon discover, was a war with Iraq. Something Sen. Wellstone had adamantly opposed before his death.
27. Route 66 - Galena, KS
America was all local once. Each town looked different, with local people driving the local economy with local businesses. Towns had character. There was variety. People were friendlier. Cars drove slowly through, and stopped often. With the advent of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s (created by Pres. Eisenhower, a former general, for purposes of moving military equipment and troops to any corner of the country most efficiently) the speed limits increased, the traffic lights were eliminated, and so too were the towns that thrived off the leisurely pace the side roads had dictated. It doesn't take but one long drive out away from any home town for a distance to understand that America is now one long, homogenous, truck stop nation. Towns are no longer discernible by local culture but by whether Mickey D's beat Burger King to the corner. Strip malls and Meineke's, Wall-Marts and KFCs define where we are in America now. Ask yourself, the last time you pulled off the interstate to grab a bite to eat, did you catch the name of the town you were in? Most likely, you ate at "a Pizza Hut off I-40," or a "Hardees off I-70." If you even got off the interstate at all. Now truck stop food courts provide all your roadside needs. Gas up and get back up to 80 as the whole world flies by the side window in a blur on your way to what's really important.
66 was the first major highway in America. Two lanes - one headed east, one west, from Chicago all the way out to Los Angeles via more small towns of note than one could count. It carried the desperate Okies out of the Dustbowl to the green fruit fields of California. It carried the hopes of millions who heeded the call to "Go west!" And it was a trip worth taking. A ride down 66 would expose all the subtle differences this country had to offer - town to city, city to county, county to state. A trip down one road could expose a young person to the whole of America as sadly, a trip down I-80 does now. Call it nostalgia, call it naivete. A country's progress comes first and foremost, true enough. But there is a price to progress, and that price is still standing, rotting away by the roadside along old highways like 66. Galena, KS is only one example. To drive now along the section of road designated "Historic Route 66" through Galena is to find the hollowed out shell of what once was. Abandoned buildings, cracked-window storefronts, closed down diners. Entire towns have been erased from the map. Newkirk, NM; Two Guns, AZ. We held a vigil here to show that America, on its current course of gentrification, homogenization, big business, and free trade, is dying. We're not advocating busting up the interstates and reinstalling all the traffic lights to compel people to stop again. But we have to ask ourselves a serious question: where's the end-game? A Wal-Mart in every town? Taco Bell for real Mexican? Mickey D's for a real burger? When does the depletion of quality for convenience sap all the variety and ultimately, all the flavor out of life in this country?
28. Cherokee Heritage Center - Tahlequah, OK
By the time the Cherokee reached their final destination in the Indian Territory, over a quarter of their population had perished along the Trail of Tears. Suffice to say, Indian Removal was and remains one of the most shameful chapters in all of American history. Yet despite this the Cherokee Nation has reestablished itself as a resilient and vibrant community in eastern Oklahoma. We were granted free access to the Heritage Center for our visit, and held our vigil at the front entrance next to a painting of a spider on the ground. This is representative of the water spider from Cherokee legend that brought fire to the Cherokee people. It's called the Sacred Fire of the Cherokee to the people of the tribe. It seemed an appropriate place to light our candle.
29. The Rothko Chapel - Houston, TX
From the Rothko Chapel website:
The Rothko Chapel, founded by John and Dominique de Menil, was dedicated in 1971 as an intimate sanctuary available to people of every belief. A modern meditative environment inspired by the mural canvasses of American abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, the Chapel welcomes thousands of visitors each year, people of every faith and from all parts of the world.
The Chapel has two vocations: contemplation and action. It is a place alive with religious ceremonies of all faiths, and where the experience and understanding of all traditions are encouraged and made available. Action takes the form of supporting human rights, and thus the Chapel has become a rallying place for all people concerned with peace, freedom, and social justice throughout the world.
We were surprised to find that we had never heard of this rare and inspiring place of worship until we realized our route would be passing through Houston and began examining relevant historical places within the city. To visit the Rothko Chapel is to redefine the experience of worship. The chapel is truly unlike any other. There are no pews, there are several benches supplemented by random floor cushions. There is no artificial light. All of the light that illuminates the inner sanctum comes from the ambient outdoor light that filters through skylights high up in the octagonal room. Rothko's expressionist paintings force the viewer to take pause. It is easy to get lost in the sparseness of his style, and each painting can transport the viewer into a deeply meditative and reflective space, befitting a place of contemplation and worship. Outside is a sculpture by Barnett Newman called "The Broken Obelisk." It is an obelisk standing upside down, point-upon-point atop a pyramid. The obelisk is broken off as it rises, representing man's aspiration, cut down before it reaches its potential. It is dedicated to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and is symbolic of his life and its premature end. In a time when organized religion divides more than it unites, (one is left to wonder if there ever was a time when it didn't) it was truly refreshing to find, in the virtual buckle of the "Bible Belt", a non-denominational refuge in which the socially conscious of all colors and creeds can find sanctuary, brief as it may be, from the divisiveness of the world outside.
30. JFK Memorial - Dallas, TX
31. Oklahoma City Memorial - Oklahoma City, OK
32. University of Texas at Austin - Austin, TX
33. David Crockett Monument - Ozona, TX
34. Madonna of the Santa Fe Trail - Lamar, CO
35. Japanese Internment Camp - Granada, CO
36. Crazy Horse Monument - Black Hills, SD
37. Mt. Rushmore - Black Hills, SD
38. Haight-Ashbury - San Francisco, CA
39. City Lights Bookstore - San Francisco, CA
40. People’s Park - Berkeley, CA
41. Fort Canby - Ilwaco, WA
42. WTO Protest - Seattle, WA
43. Seattle General Strike 1912 - Seattle, WA
44. Chief Seattle - Seattle, WA
45. Las Vegas - Las Vegas, NV
46. Jeannette Rankin Peace Center - Missoula, MT
47. Glacier National Peace Park - West Glacier, MT
48. Bearpaw Battlefield - Bearpaw, MT
49. Columbine High School - Columbine, CO
50. Durango - Durango, CO