Blogging from D.C.

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iPhone pic­ture of the White House

It’s a gloomy Fri­day after­noon in the nation’s capi­tol. I’m sit­ting on the steps of the Lin­coln Memo­r­ial look­ing at the crowds of tourists scram­bling up the mar­ble steps for their oppor­tu­nity to take a pic­ture with hon­est Abe. Look­ing across the land­scape of Amer­i­can His­tory I find a moment of repose.

I make it a point to stop by the Lin­coln Memo­r­ial every time I’m in the city. There is some­thing sacred and solemn about this shrine in par­tic­u­lar. Per­haps it is the very sim­ple words that are engraved above his mar­ble image:

In this tem­ple as in the hearts of the peo­ple for whom he saved the Union the Mem­ory of Abra­ham Lin­coln is enshrined forever”

These sim­ple words cause me to reflect on our nation’s his­tory. My jour­ney begins dur­ing the Civil War but instantly trans­ports me back to the found­ing of our nation. This is a jour­ney through time that I take on a reg­u­lar basis. To say I am fas­ci­nated with our nation’s past and con­sumed with thoughts of our future would be an under­state­ment. How­ever, this jour­ney is uniquely dif­fer­ent. I look down onto the small walk­way that sep­a­rates the two dif­fer­ent sets of steps and see an engrav­ing of where Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. stood and gave his his­tor­i­cal speech. This time my jour­ney through time is dif­fer­ent because where it doesn’t take me to our finest moments but our darkest.

In an instant images of slav­ery, Japan­ese intern­ment camps, Jim Crow laws, and the hyper-polarized antics of the present flash before my eyes. Just as quickly as I jour­ney through these dark moments in our his­tory, feel­ings of great pride over­take me. Some may won­der how this could be. At a bare min­i­mum I should have feel­ings of ambiva­lence about this coun­try because of my her­itage; but I don’t. I’m have always been and con­tinue to be proud to be an Amer­i­can. Noth­ing in our past has the abil­ity to taint my love for this coun­try. I see our past crimes, atroc­i­ties, and embar­rass­ments as lessons that shaped our union. We are, as Jef­fer­son proph­e­sied, ever evolv­ing into a more per­fect union.

Sud­denly, my moment of patri­otic pride fades as I begin think about how many peo­ple don’t feel the same way about our nation. So many are con­sumed by the pain and prob­lems of our past that they con­demn our nation’s future. Oth­ers are so infu­ri­ated by oppos­ing ideas of gov­ern­ing that they declare the end of “the nation our founders built.”  In my heart I won­der how many cit­i­zens can love this coun­try beyond our past and dif­fer­ences in polit­i­cal ideology.

iPhone pic­ture of the Lin­coln Memorial

So many of us only love the coun­try when our party is in con­trol or when the check has our name on it. Every time the check goes to a dif­fer­ent demo­graphic or when­ever our polit­i­cal rivals are in power we declare that our nation is lost and has to be taken back. Is our love based only on polit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy and what the nation can do for us?

 

And just as I begin to suc­cumb to these feel­ings of sad­ness I take another look across the land­scape of our capi­tol and a smile breaks through. Patri­otic pride over­takes the feel­ings of sad­ness because my eyes are privy to the truth: our nation will not be con­demned because of our past, will not be lost because our rivals may be in power, and despite our dif­fer­ences will always be beau­ti­ful. I look again at the spot where Dr. King stood and my jour­ney through time ends at the same place it began: repose.

iPhone image of the Lin­coln Memorial

We may have our dif­fer­ences, but each of us still has Amer­ica. This is our land. This is our home. The past is all of ours to own. The future is all of ours to make. But where some see prob­lems I see promise. I see oppor­tu­ni­ties to con­tribute to mak­ing our nation more per­fect while real­iz­ing that we will never get there. At our best we will still have dif­fer­ences, prob­lems, and a trou­bled past. But today Amer­ica is unques­tion­ably more beau­ti­ful and more per­fect. What it will be tomor­row depends on how many cit­i­zens can be proud to be an Amer­i­can even when our party is not in power and when some­one else is ben­e­fit­ing from her.

Thanks for the jour­ney Abe. Per­haps this is why I make it a point to always stop by here when­ever I’m in the city. Next stop, the Capi­tol Building.

Posted in: America

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