A week ago, I was in the middle of an incredible visit to Washington D.C. Having never been there, I had high expectations about what I would be seeing. I had no idea that these expectations were miniscule in comparison to what I actually would experience. My trip to the various monuments and memorial sites were such a shot in the arm, boosting both my pride in our country and admiration at the skill with which our Founding Fathers created this great nation of ours. The Grand Experiment indeed!
For the past several years I have grown quite weary of the pervasive negative attitudes that permeate our national discourse. As a former teacher and therapist, I thought I should be an “informed citizen,” taking that role very seriously. I developed an anxiety that, at first, I could not identify. I felt I was being bombarded by negativity coming at me from all directions, left and right, up and down. When I realized the cause of the angst, I made a conscious choice to stop watching news. I also posted a sign on my front door: “You are entering a politics-free zone.” I took a vacation from news!!! (I also knew that if there were some monumentally important events I needed to know about, someone would call and let me know.)
As I stood at the base of the Lincoln Memorial and studied the expression on his very familiar face, I was struck both by the look of strength and compassion it exhibited. I read the powerful words excerpted from various writings, and was moved to surprising tears. All of the pictures I had seen of this very familiar icon of American history did not prepare me for the power of the actual memorial. I felt both humble to be in this place, and proud that our country had such a giant as a loving, competent leader.
That was the first of many surprising reactions to familiar words from familiar, diverse Americans. After three days, I saw the pattern of language that at first eluded me: Jefferson, Lincoln, F.D.R. (Roosevelt), Martin Luther King, J.F.K. (Kennedy), and so many others used the same language as Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Ernest Holmes. It is a language of positivity: love, accept, encourage, inspire, embrace, move forward, learn, find a way, succeed.
My daughter-in-law told me she wants to organize a compulsive field trip for all persons holding office in government. She believes that if they will stand in these places of honor and respect, and ponder the words of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Martin Luther King, and so many others, they will remember that they are about the business of the people, and not the various special interest groups. She is sure this could heal the political chasm that so permeates Washington politics today. We become the change we wish to see.
I visited the Pentagon, the National Library, the National Cathedral, the many monuments, museums, and memorials; and of course, the iconic cherry blossoms, just days short of their peak explosion of color. As we walked beneath them, I appreciated how Mother Nature and Man conspired together to create this awesome tableau.
Home now, I feel reinvigorated by my experience, confident that we are a great nation based on sound principles. As a (still) young nation, we learnas we go. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” I choose to remember my kinship with all my fellow Americans … and all citizens of the world. Will you join me?
by Pat Masters