The discipline, dedication and dignity of those who march on the grounds of the Marine Barracks at Eighth and I streets in Southeast during the "Evening Parade," held each Friday night in the summer months, is uplifting, stirring and a reminder that not all of America is as sad as Cindy Sheehan and the "Night of the Living Dead" ghouls flashing the peace sign.
There is a proud history connected to this stretch of turf. There is another world behind the red-brick walls and wrought-iron gates. The Marines are all too eager to tell you that President Jefferson and Lt. Col. William Ward Burrows picked out this location in 1801 because of its proximity to the Capitol and Washington Navy Yard. The oldest post of the Corps was completed in 1806, with the commandant"s house on the north end of the quadrangle being the only original building still standing.
The commandant"s house is said to be the oldest continually occupied public building in the nation"s capital, a distinction that came to be because of the British-inspired bonfire at the Capitol in 1812.
The Marines from these barracks took part in Washington"s defense in 1812, just as they have answered the call to duty in subsequent wars. There is no equivocating on these grounds, no cultural relativism, no intellectual ineptitude that can heard in the upscale eateries and saloons on Eighth Street just outside these walls. It was at this site that John Philip Sousa composed several of his famous marches while serving as the director of the Marine Band.
If the walls could talk, they would tell of the great Americans who have passed through these barracks, men who matched their words with deeds, men who embraced God and country. And, of course, that mind-set is still in evidence on the post, even if a good portion of America no longer believes in such quaint notions.
We live in a nation of parallel universes now, and perhaps that parallel is no more striking than at Eighth and I streets in Southeast, where one America is surrounded by one that has lost its self-preservation instinct.
A doting father, with two tots at his side, has the bearing of someone who once served and a T-shirt bearing an announcement that would cause panic attacks among the smug in academia.
It reads: "I hate sand and camels." His was a nuance-free sentiment that complemented the clear-eyed sense of purpose inside the compound. Theirs is a refreshing mixture of old-fashioned patriotism and loyalty, qualities seemingly out of vogue in the bluest precincts of the nation.
Master Gunnery Sgt. P.J. Wilson, the narrator of the event, told the tales of valor and heroism of those being honored. These were tales of great sacrifice and courage in the "global war or terror," as the narrator termed our fight with utmost clarity.
The silent drill platoon put on a show, tossing their bayonet-packing M-1 Garand rifles in precision without the benefit of a command. When the Marine Drum & Bugle Corps did its rendition of "God Bless the USA," the crowd belted out the words to it.
Oh, yes, they still believe in the United States at the Marine Barracks in Southeast, and they do not ask for your pity or cheap slogans or obtuse opinions.
At the conclusion of the night, a bugler standing atop a building on the east side of the quadrangle filled the July night air with the playing of taps.
The crowd soon filed out of the post to the other America, to "Bush lied, people died," to "We support the troops, but not the war," to "an eye for an eye and the world goes blind." And that nonsense is fine. The First Amendment guarantees everyone"s right to be a seditious armchair general.
But a good number of us prefer to stick behind those packing a rifle with bayonet affixed to it.
Come to think of it, I am not into sand and camels either.