|This isn't the first time these guys talk out of both sides of their mouths|
For instance, I love the United States of America. I was born here; it’s my country and I’m proud of it. I like to think of the U.S. as the No. 1 country in the world, despite a heck of a lot of facts and figures that suggest our overall ranking is otherwise.
Our stated values and principles are things I hold dear. And yet as an institutional system and as much as I love it, this nation is wildly flawed. Flawed in ways that frustrate and anger me.
|One of the most damning contradictions about our founding fathers|
We say we value freedom. But the U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. We lift up equality as a cherished principle. Yet conditions like racism, poverty and hunger persist across the 50 states.
We insist one of our most cherished institutions is education. Yet we deny inner city school systems the resources they need to thrive. At the same time we saddle college graduates with staggering debt to accompany their diplomas.
Recently I visited the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. It’s an amazing place, steeped in pride of history and country. It was at once inspiring and troubling.
The main attraction is “Freedom Rising”, a 17-minute, 360-degree theatrical presentation. Think: intensely patriotic IMAX Theater. The production traces the “American quest for freedom” and if you want to know about the beginnings of the United States and its storied history, this production and the Center itself is the place to go. Sort of.
See, within these walls are contradictions. Contradictions and omissions – the sum of which fail to tell the full and complete story of our great nation. This ultimately speaks to truth. Or rather, untruth.
|Thomas Jefferson. Whose story? His-story.|
That’s a problem. Especially for people who don’t hold that identity. The thing of it is, most of us who are not straight and white and male and Christian are not even aware of the lens through which we view things like this exhibition.
Had I not made a conscious decision to experience my visit to the Center through the lens of racial equity, I would not have noticed that after the initial sentence of the “Freedom Rising” presentation, Native Americans were never mentioned again. It was as if they went extinct.
If I hadn’t kept my critical thinking cap on, I probably would not have keyed in on the fact that the U.S. Constitution was written by and specifically for men. White, landowning men.
There are scores of other examples but the point is that the Center, and historians in general, whitewash history. They scrub it clean of the dirtier aspects contributing to this nation’s creation. They sweep away hard cold facts in favor of more palatable renderings. And it’s damaging to our psyche. Telling the truth from a single perspective keeps people from coming to terms with who we are as a nation.
Until we hear, and more importantly accept, all sides of United States history – the good, bad and ugly, folks will continue to have trouble sitting in the right and wrong of America. Its contradictions.
Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.