Graeme Wood


A Groundling’s-Eye View

Originally appeared at

The Washington Monument stood wreathed in dust kicked up by the masses, as if the Mall were the nation’s largest feedlot. Everyone there for today’s inauguration wanted a piece of history, and the more ambitious of us imagined taking home something tangible. Of the 2 million present, no more than a quarter million had tickets. The rest of us dreamed of squeezing to the front of the crowd, and perhaps picking up a stray program. Or maybe, like football fans storming the field and pulling down the uprights, we’d rush the podium at the end and each take home a fragment of a presidential seal. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Family That Protests Together

Something tells me that today, as hundreds weep not two hundred yards from my office, is not the day to say something nice about the most reviled family in America. But when is the day? Every year, the followers of the Reverend Fred Phelps protest hundreds of funerals — mostly the funerals of soldiers — and each set of mourners deserves better that to have anti-gay fanatics waving signs denouncing them as “fags” and “fag-enablers” (a category that apparently captures everyone but the Westboro members themselves). The bereaved Russerts certainly do. I sympathize with the woman who stopped her car and asked a passerby to run over and snatch away the “Russert in Hell” sign. But if we must choose one funeral as an occasion to rectify the public’s ignorance of the Phelpses’ bizarre history, it might even seem fitting that the occasion would be the death of a man recognized as an emblem of truth-seeking and setting records straight. Read the rest of this entry »

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Great Schism

In Washington, this is a week of two Christian passages: Pope Benedict XVI’s celebration of his 81st birthday, and the burial of Bishop S. C. Madison, leader of TUHOPFAP for seventeen years. One of the largest and most powerful of the “black holiness churches,” TUHOPFAP is known for its street brass bands, cheap and delicious soul food, and mass outdoor baptisms, which involve fire-hoses and huge tanks of water imported from the River Jordan. This morning, members packed TUHOPFAP’s D.C. church, known as “God’s White House,” to bury Bishop Madison and mourn his passing. Many of the women wore white — a sign, perhaps, of the celebratory mood that the church seems incapable of casting off, even at the somber farewell to its beloved leader. In the cafeteria, Saint’s Paradise (“Where our Main Ingredient is Love”), no one cried into his grits, and the church’s signature brass piped its music, major-key, in over the intercom. But a question remains: Who will lead the Church next? Read the rest of this entry »

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