Yesterday evening – My first visit to Madame Tussauds in Washington, DC.

Why is Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the room with the Founding Fathers (Jefferson, Washington , Ben Franklin)? There’s a gray costume you can wear to take a picture. Where’s Ulysses S. Grant (who did become President) or Sherman? I’ve got Confederates in my attic, but I’m just sayin’.

Why is Lincoln in his assassin’s theater box? You can sit next to Lincoln, but you won’t be well lit. Bring a flash. Maybe good lighting helped John Wilkes Booth accomplish the dirty deed. Should you pose with a revolver in your hand? I didn’t notice any metal detectors.

What’s so amusing about starting your own war by pushing a big yellow button? Is that how Truman did it for VJ day? We were always told it was a red button. Should there be a code orange room? Churchill, FDR and LBJ are watching. George W. Bush stands alone in a separate room.

Why is Yoko Ono in the Civil Rights room with Martin Luther King, Jr.; Malcolm X; Muhammad Ali, and Rosa Parks? Who’s driving this bus? Yoko should be in the War Room singing “Give Peace a Chance.” Visitors can climb into bed with her.

In a city with so many free museums, Madame Tussauds’ is one of the more popular “admission fee” museums along with the International Spy Museum, Newseum, and a few others. These for-profit themed museums cost at least $20 per visit. The Smithsonian Institution has had to “pop up” some of their exhibitions to compete with the private and more entertaining museum experiences that are capturing the attentions of the Smithsonian’s core audience base, i.e. tourists.

“[George] Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. [Aldous] Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny ‘failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.’ In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”

From Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman