We have enjoyed taking our son on some patriotic outings this past year. Some were more upbeat than others, but all of them offered a point of discussion about America. We went to the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York. We visited the Statue of Liberty and read Emma Lazarus’ famous poem “The New Colossus” on a brass plaque together.
On another adventure last month, we visited the Freedom Trail in Boston. We stopped at Faneuil Hall, where John Adams and others encouraged independence from Great Britain, and we stood on the site of the Boston Massacre.
We toured the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and saw exhibits about about the struggle for civil rights. In the past we have visited Washington D.C., where we saw the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives building and walked on the Capitol Mall.
Back home, at the dinner table, we also discussed some monumental decisions in America stemming from recent news. Last month, the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage a right for all Americans. The Episcopal church, where I grew up going to church, authorized their clergy to perform same-sex weddings.
Meanwhile, a debate about the Confederate flag forced Americans to do some soul searching about racial intolerance. And last month, we also learned that Hispanics are now California’s largest ethnic group.
We are at a crossroads in America: personalization on digital devices (iPhones, Kindles and so on) and news outlets such as Fox News allow us to see and hear what we want, or to hang out with our like-minded friends and business associates, rather than encourage us to embrace the “melting pot” that defined America in the first place — sometimes more uncomfortable to handle.
At the same time we are becoming bigger, we are becoming smaller.
All of this comes in a nation that is known for welcoming people from many different countries, races, and religions, all hoping to find freedom, new opportunities, and a better way of life.
To be sure, America is still a work in progress.
I look at hundreds of photos in our business, and the one I found this morning — pictured here — sums up America well: Smiling girls hugging in front of a chalk-colored American flag. I hope you enjoy the Fourth of July!