Today we went to the American History Museum. I’m not going to really discuss the individual exhibits, rather I am going to describe my general thoughts on the overall theme of the museum.
The general theme of the museum was that America was founded on certain principles and ideals. However, throughout our history, we have not lived up to those ideals. The main example of this is the stain of slavery and the legacy of racism against black people in America. Despite our failures, we were a beacon of hope to many people around the globe world. To immigrants from war-ravaged lands, we offered refuge (we did this imperfectly, and did not accept as many as we probably should have at times). To the Allies in WWI, our forces turned the tide and helped bring an end to that terrible war war. In WWII, despite our late entry, we helped the allies liberate Europe, while simultaneously (nearly single-handedly) pushing back the terror of Imperial Japan.
Through our history, the promise of America was denied to many people. From the slaves to the Japanese-Americans who were kept in incarceration camps during WWII; from women, to Native Americans; all were denied their fundamental rights. Despite all this, we have continually tried to include more people in the promises of America. We have done this through diplomatic means at times, but whenever required, American military might has prevailed over evil forces of the world. But victory comes at a great cost. We have the ability to live freely and have the rights that we have due to the scarifies of so many. We stand on ground watered by the blood of thousands of men and women; and our fallen lie across the globe in cemeteries near where they gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Despite our imperfections, we have continually tried to improve how we lived up to the ideals of America, and we continue to try and figure out what those ideals mean in our world today.
The concept of America—a land of the free, a home of the brave—has become somewhat of a religion. Its saints are the founding fathers, presidents, civil rights leaders, and other “doers”; its sacraments: the pursuit of happiness, the right to be autonomous, and personal freedom; and its saviour: individual hard work. But, like all false religions, the American Religion is misguided. Its saviour is imperfect, because its us; its saints are often elevated for accomplishment, not character; and its sacraments lead to vanity.
Despite of all this, the American flag has become a worldwide symbol of freedom, prosperity, and stability. So much so that an entire exhibit is dedicated to the display of the most famous flag: the one that the Star Spangled Banner was written about. I enjoyed seeing that flag, it was very large, and it would have been cool to see it being raised over the Fort McHenry after the all-night naval bombardment by the British forces during the War of 1812.