Looking For America: Thoughts on our Travels and Black History Month

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

We’re not special.  However, we won the birth lottery by being born in a rich, western country.  And, dare we state the obvious, we won the lottery again by being born white in the US.  With no apparent barriers in our way and a little native intelligence, we reached out for the opportunities afforded by having university educations and grabbed our piece of the American dream.  We never critically questioned our privilege.

Several months ago, in September of 2016, we returned to the US for a short visit and once again, became tourists in our own country.  Against the backdrop of the divisiveness of the US election where race, religion, gender equality, basic healthcare and immigration status had become massive issues of contention, we explored for ourselves what it meant to be citizens of the US.

Gettysburg Battlefield monument

Gettysburg Battlefield monument

One of our first stops was in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to visit the Civil War battlefield where thousands of men died fighting for conflicting ideologies: State’s rights versus Federal rights, slavery versus abolitionism and a rural, southern society versus the social disruption the north was experiencing with the spread of manufacturing, commerce and the industrial revolution.

WWII and Washington Monuments

WWII and Washington Monuments

We moved on to Washington D.C, one of our favorite cities and spent a day on the National Mall, walking past the almost finished National Museum of African-American History and Culture, returning to those monuments honoring the men and women who have served our country and many times made the ultimate sacrifice.  This was also our first visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, located on the west bank of the Tidal Basin not too far from the Lincoln Memorial on whose steps Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech where he visualized an end to racial inequality.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

 

Just a few steps away is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, one of our favorites, a four-room outdoor monument commemorating each of his four terms. Perhaps because of its proximity to Martin Luther King Jr.’s memorial, one of FDR’s quotes seemed to have a special meaning.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Washington D.C.

 

Jackson Square with St. Louis Cathedral in background, New Orleans

Jackson Square with St. Louis Cathedral in background, New Orleans

We drove from Georgia to spend a few days in New Orleans, Louisiana, another first-time visit for us in this city renowned for its French and Spanish Creole architecture, music and food.  The city’s graciousness contrasted sharply with its 19th century history as the largest slave market where more than 700,000 slaves brought to the Deep South arrived via the “forced migration of the domestic slave trade.”  Here we saw, too, where race and deep poverty played a part in 2005 in determining who escaped Hurricane Katrina – one of the deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States – who lived through the disaster that reduced the city to a desperate, hellish nightmare and who perished. Since we were living on Padre Island off the Texas Coast at that time, we remembered watching as the tragedy played out on the news, questioning if this was really happening in “our” America.

condemned house - 9th Ward

condemned house – 9th Ward

Spending a couple of days in Natchez, Mississippi, we visited a few of the magnificent Antebellum homes, spared from the Civil War and preserved with loving care.  Before the war, Natchez boasted it had the most millionaires per capita of any city in the US.  And yet, here again we were reminded that these houses and great fortunes originated from growing sugarcane and cotton using slave labor.  Here we also learned that Natchez had been home to the second largest slave market before the civil war.

Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama

Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama

From the Vicksburg National Military Park, another Civil War Battlefield honoring those who fought and died, we made our way to Selma, Alabama.  We arrived in the small and dusty town of less than 21,000 on a September afternoon that had us wilting with the temperature hovering at almost 100 degrees.  Evidently the heat had driven everyone inside because, except for our car and a very few others, the streets were deserted. However, in our imaginations, Selma had attained an almost mythical status because of the Selma to Montgomery marches.  Here was where “Bloody Sunday” occurred on March 7th, 1965, when John Robert Lewis, now a U.S. Representative from Atlanta, Georgia, led a group of six-hundred marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, en route to Montgomery.  Blocked by local police and Alabama State troopers, they were ordered to turn around, beaten with clubs and tear gassed with over fifty people requiring hospitalization.  Civil rights activists poured into Selma and Martin Luther King Jr. attempted a second march on March 9th. Finally, on March 29th, after receiving federal protection, Dr. King led a group of 10,000 marchers from Selma.  By the time they reached Montgomery five days later, the marchers had grown to over 30,000 people, black and white and representing many faiths.

Our last destination took us from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, only an hour by car.  Arriving on a Saturday, the downtown area streets looked all but abandoned and, again, the late September heat was smothering.  We paid our respects to the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement” inside the Rosa Parks Library and Museum. Rosa Park’s arrest in December of 1955 for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger inspired a 381-day bus boycott in Montgomery and ended with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public buses is unconstitutional.  Possibly even more thought-provoking than this museum was our visit to the nearby Southern Poverty Law Center. The Civil Rights Memorial, outside the center, is a black granite memorial inscribed with the names of forty-one Americans who died between 1954, the year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in schools was unlawful, and 1968, the year Martin Luther King was assassinated.  Inside the building, a timeline of the Civil Rights Movement explains the events that occurred and honors those who gave their lives.  At the end of our tour, deeply moved, we were given the opportunity to add our names to the “Wall of Tolerance” where we pledged that we too, would work for the same ideals of justice, equality, and human rights.

"We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." Martin Luther King Amos 5:24

Our road trip in the US a few months ago gave us a chance, again, to learn and reflect more about our country and ourselves.  In the past, our country has honored multiculturalism and diversity while straddling a divide that threatens to grow wider each day. As bleak as it seems however, there is much to celebrate and many reasons to remain hopeful.  The US’s own Civil Rights Movement continues to provide inspiration for those who seek justice today as well as sanctuary.  And it’s becoming more and more evident that there are thousands willing to take up their banners and march.

By Anita Oliver and Richard Nash

 

52 comments

  • What an interesting, thoughtful and thought provoking post. I often think about the fact while we travel, that where one is born and the circumstances surrounding that place so dictate such different lives and lifestyles and directions. What an extensive trip! Did you have culture shock as we did….after returning after a long time of living elsewhere?

    http://www.greenglobaltrek.com/2015/07/culture-shock-america-chicago.html

    Peta

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    • Oh the culture shock! We’ve learned to go slow the first few days we visit “home” as the stimulation is almost overwhelming at times. In fact, our first return to the US after living in Mexico and traveling through all of Central America, almost sent us into melt downs in the huge one-stop shopping stores several times. Even now, when we return from a relatively simple life in Portugal, we are amazed at the amount of choices that lead to having to make endless decisions. So stressful! I think we’re much happier with a culture where bigger and more aren’t necessarily better. Thanks for your link, Peta as your post was a terrific read and I found myself nodding my head, over and over as you went through your reactions. Here’s to a simpler life!

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  • This was beautifully written Anita. I grew up in a small town in Illinois that had only one black family, with two boys, one of who was in my class. Sam easily blended into the small group I ran with and became one of us. However, those who enacted the laws in the community saw to it that he and his family were not allowed to join the beach club, relegated instead to swimming in the muddy creek. I am forever thankful that Sam entered my life and opened my eyes and heart to the plight of the black man. I have never understood why anyone would find themselves to be superior to anyone else because of the color of their skin. As the days go by I am more fearful of what I am seeing in this country. I have told my hubby that it would not take much for me to pack my bags. For now I am doing my part to try to make a difference.

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    • It sounds like growing up with Sam made a huge impression on you LuAnn and that you learned about injustice by watching how unfairly your friend was treated. We too have a hard time understanding racism and religious intolerance and find it appalling. And we keep wondering, if it’s so terrifying for us to watch the US go down the darker road of nationalism and bigotry, how much worse it is for those whose livelihood, well-being, safety and way-of-life are threatened? So glad that you are playing an active role in making a difference as each kind act and voice raised in dissent shows that the momentum can be slowed and our path turned. And hopefully, our congress remembers the “…By the people, for the people …” words of Abraham Lincoln.

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  • What a great road trip and wonderful post. It’s sad to think that in 2017 we still can’t live and let live and treat everyone equally but I’m not sure humans are wired for that. Wars and superiority complexes have existed since the beginning of time and racism isn’t confined to the USA, it’s everywhere, whether it’s subtle or in your face, it’s there. Canada isn’t immune to it either, I have friends in the Ottawa area who have been late to work many times because several buses passed them by because of the colour of their skin.

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    • Thanks Nathalie. While we’re somewhat cynical politically, we’ve always taken for granted that things would continue in a forward fashion and we’d see yet more barriers toppled and injustices righted. And, while we’ve naively assumed we’d see racism and poverty elsewhere, it’s been horrifying to realize how pervasive the problem is in our very own backyard. With the current political administration it no longer seems to be necessary to assume a civilized veneer of politeness and it appears to be acceptable to be open about one’s hatred of different races, religions and sexual preferences. You’re right that dominance is hard-wired into humanity and we all seem to need to feel superior about something but we still can’t help but hope that our better sides will win out …

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  • A year ago I would have voiced my incredulity that this nonsense of discriminating based on a person’s skin colour actually happened in our lifetime. Now watching what is happening with the attacks on the Jewish and Muslim communities in the United States I’m questioning just how far we’ve advanced. Why can’t we all just get along? Thanks for the great blog guys.

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    • Thanks Shelley for your comment. We were just thinking that it doesn’t seem too long ago when we sat in your Florida living room (fall, 2015) and watched one of the GOP debates while the Republicans were still trying to figure out who best (?) to represent the party. That is an amazingly difficult concept to try to wrap our minds around as the DT administration nears the 50th day of its tenure with the government in chaos, a proven racist in charge of our law enforcement machinery and our congress standing by. Although racism, sexism and religious intolerance have always existed, there has been a feeling of progress being made in the US of fighting against them – that this difficult history would be in our past. We too are incredulous …

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  • This is a very thoughtful post. I think living outside own’s home country allows one to see or understand more about it. Your reflection on past struggles was both sad and hopeful. We need to remember how important it is to stand up for and to protect human rights.

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    • Yes! I think you’re right Donna that, as expats, we are looking at our country from a different perspective. Our news comes from the US as well as international sources so our “bias” filter is different too. Having seen that, we’ve realized how much more we have in common with other nationalities than things that separate us. It’s been sobering to realize that so many of the hard fought for gains in civil and equal rights we thought were secured are at risk once again. It’s hard not to be depressed about the attempts to take our country down a darker road or see hate groups become more visible in everyday life. However, it’s also encouraging to realize that a growing group of thousands are indeed standing up against them.

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  • That is so interesting. So many human rights advances have been made in the US that it would be very disappointing to see any reversal. (I would say that I’m looking on from the sidelines, but what happens in America affects the rest of the world…)

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    • We were amazed, here in Portugal, to see the degree of interest with which the presidential election was followed as well as the opinions voiced. You’re so correct, Karen, in saying that what happens in America affects the rest of the world. It’s not possible to turn our backs on other nations after assuming a leadership position for decades nor, in many cases, is it humane. We are so dismayed to see the rise in hatred, bigotry and religious intolerance and only hope that people keep speaking up for what is right.

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  • Thank you both so much for your profound thoughts on this subject. Our country is full of contradictions in so many ways. I will say that the recent developments in our government and the activism that it has provoked brings me hope. The more people that get involved and educated on what’s going on the better off we’ll all be. I also think traveling especially in our own country and exploring our past is learning everyone can gain from. Kudos for a wonderful post.

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    • Thanks Sue. It’s always baffled us when someone will say that history is “boring” and maybe, if you just make it about the dates, it can be. As you’ve mentioned, our country is filled with contradictions and opposing visions about what it should be. Until recently, we always felt, no matter what party was in charge, that we were still moving on a fairly straightforward course. Now though, more than ever, is the time when we can learn much from events not so long ago and we too are encouraged by the people who are making their voices heard about equality, diversity and human rights.

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  • I really enjoyed reading about your journey, I guess because I was a political science major. Although I studied in Canada, I always loved learning more about the United States. Obviously packed with a rich history, there is so much I haven’t seen and appreciated some of the sites you visited, particularly the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the Southern Poverty Law Centre and the Rosa Parks Library and Museum.

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    • So glad you enjoyed this Jan! We’ve been lucky to do more traveling in the US on our last two visits (several thousand miles) and have used the road time to educate ourselves more about the history or our country as well as the culture of the times. The south was always a mystery so it’s been especially intriguing as has delving into the civil rights movement and visiting some of the sites where the movement was pivotal. Thank you for your interest in our country and we hope to return the favor in the near future by learning more about your as well as traveling through some of Canada.

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  • Thank you so much for writing so thoughtfully. We live in interesting times. Reading your post, I reflected on the disturbing undercurrents surfacing widely in my own country following BREXIT.
    It is heartening to see those who are willing to stand and see without labels

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    • Hi Dick and Nita! I’m so proud of you for this post! I agree with the person above who said it’s your best yet, and that’s saying a lot!! We visited Selma and Montgomery several years ago, just before Barack Obama was elected President. It was extremely moving at that time, and the folks in the Civil Rights Museum in Selma were all aflutter because candidate Barack Obama had visited there recently. we also visited the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery and added our names to the list there of those who vowed to work for the dignity and human rights of all. Since that time, I’ve become a life member of the NAACP, and for a time was very active in the Bulloch County, GA, Chapter. Now that we’re in north Georgia, it’s not so convenient to be involved personally, but I’m still a member, and still donate to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The thing that struck me in Selma is how little has changed in 50 years, economically, since the fabled march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge. As you approach the town that way, you still have poor, primarily black folk living to the right, and the mansions of the richer white folk to your left. Of course, there are layers of complexity here, it’s not just a one-dimensional problem of racial prejudice, though that remains a persistent challenge.

      I think the challenge for all of us, as mentioned in the previous writer’s post above, is to see one another without lables, without preconceptions, and to be more accepting while still standing for those principles we hold dear.

      Challenging times indeed! As a member of the Baha’i Faith, our basic belief, and the philosophy and world view that motivates us, is the oneness of humanity. It’s critical to the survival of all humanity that we all, finally, learn this and apply it in our lives.

      Thank you again!

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      • Nancy, your heartfelt comment meant so much to both of us as did sharing part of our US journey (coming and going!) with you and Dick. I think our Hurricane Katrina tour and the journey we took with the taxi driver through the 9th ward in New Orleans were some of the seeds for this post as was the shocking dismissal of John Lewis as an “All talk, talk talk – no action” representative.” When we have a congress where a woman (Senator Elizabeth Warren) is not allowed to read a letter by civil rights icon , Coretta Scott King, to oppose a racist like Jeff Sessions, something is truly wrong. Driving through the deep south on our last road trip was a reminder of how slowly time moves forward in some places and we’re realizing that the progress made is under siege once more. Thanks for reminding us (once again) that the struggle really is that we’re all in this together, as a part of humanity. Your volunteering efforts are a shining example that we can all contribute and, even here in Portugal, we’re realizing that we can do our part by Skyping our congressmen and supporting our media.

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    • Thank you for your lovely comment and we loved your phrase, “Seeing without labels.” Sadly we do live in interesting times and it’s not hard to draw parallels between the populist movements of the UK and the US. Nationalism seems to be reemerging in other EU countries as well. It’s been helpful and also made us hopeful to see our country acknowledging and working to correct past injustices although much still needs to be done. However, in the current climate, all we can hope is that we don’t lose too much ground…

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  • Great post, very thought provoking. I would love to visit some of these places, particularly New Orleans and Washington D.C., a road trip in the US would be great, something that has been on our bucket list for ages.

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    • Thank you Gilda. We’ve taken two long road trips the last couple of times we returned to visit the US (our 2015 trip covered an estimated 6,000 miles and our 2016 trip was about 4,000) and have really enjoyed having a fairly open itinerary to explore. The US is huge and fascinating and maybe the hardest thing, outside of having enough time, is deciding what direction to go. In short Gilda, you’d love it! A road trip is definitely a great trip to have on any bucket list (even if you do have to drive on the right-hand side of the road!) 🙂

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  • Really great post. I think too many folks have lost sight of what the United Sates is all about. You captured a part that we all need reminding about.

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    • Our road trip was a good reminder for us too, to explore our own country’s history, good and bad, and take pride that so many people have fought against injustice. Sadly we’re seeing that our forward progress has been halted and may be rolled back (temporarily) but it’s awesome to see the numbers of people dissenting with that vision. We all need a reminder of what the US symbolizes to those who are counting on the US to help make their lives and their children’s lives better.

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  • This is beautifully written. I wish more Americans would visit these sites recounting Americans’ struggles for civil rights, so they could reflect on their own actions today. The struggle should be nearing its end, but it seems Americans are intent on undoing so much of the progress made by civil rights activists, feminists, LGBTQ activists, etc. I find it hard to be hopeful.

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    • We too Rachel, had celebrated the tremendous gains that have been made over the last several years towards securing civil rights not only for African Americans but for many other marginalized groups. It’s frightening to see now how fragile these rights are.and that the fate of so many thousands rest in the hands of just a few, mostly white, mostly male politicians representing nationalistic constituents who have their own view of what’s wrong with the world and who’s at fault. You’re right that it’s hard to be hopeful … and yet, there’s no other way to continue on without it.

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  • Fascinating and thoughtful journey. In this environment it is difficult to stay positive and I’m thankful for your message about celebrating the good and staying hopeful.

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    • Thanks for your lovely comment, Caroline. Our road trip this summer has definitely assumed a new significance as we’ve reflected on what we learned about the dark side of the past as well as celebrated what’s great about America. You’re right that it’s hard not to despair when we see so many of the progressive changes being challenged from all sides in an attempt to make America great for the privileged few but not ALL. It is however, heartening to watch people come together in massive numbers to protest against this rights rollback. And we’re finding that, even across the Atlantic, there are a lot of ways we can voice both our support for those protesting and effectively express our dissent too.

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  • A well written and thoughtful piece. Regardless of our backgrounds the lessons of tolerance and of the fragility of democracy ring true. It is also worth remembering for so many of us the privileges we enjoy and can too easily lose sight of.

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    • So glad you liked this Tim and Anne. For so much of the US, the last few weeks and months have been quite disillusioning as we’ve watched emboldened hate groups step into the mainstream and a whole “nationalistic” ferver sweep through the US. It’s appalling to watch the spew of anger and intolerance against vulnerable populations who ask only for equality, safety and security as well as the freedom to worship how they wish. In short, all the things that we once assumed that the US symbolized. The civil rights movement showed us how we can accomplish change peacefully and it’s heartening to see that many, far from taking privileges and rights for granted, are working tirelessly to ensure the same benefits are extended to others.

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  • Alan-Shannon Jones

    Great post. I appreciate your insight and thoughts.

    Sent from Shannon’s iPad

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  • Anita/Richard: For a couple of expats writing from beyond the shores of the U.S., this may be your best post yet. Here’s yet another reason to travel: to gain a perspective of one’s own country from afar. Mariah and I have been able to do this as well, from two different countries at this point, and it’s very enlightening. As dismayed as we’ve been since the vote in November, we see rays of hope and awareness emerging, and posts like yours are a great example of that. Thanks for sharing your experiences from Gettysburg, DC, the lower ninth, Selma etc. We believe these references show the real America, and point the way forward. Happy to repost this. Keep it up.
    BE

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    • Thanks By, for your supportive comments as it’s difficult (so many times) to rein in the rant we really want to go on! 😁 You’re right about travel and expating being great teachers as the experience allows us to change our perspectives as well as our opinions. And it’s fascinating to visit the US as a tourist with more of a world view. This road trip was especially interesting to view historical events and juxtapose them against current events. And with some of those Civil Rights leaders in the recent news (John Lewis and Coretta Scott King) we were reminded yet again how important some knowledge of history can be when trying to make sense of our world today.

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  • I’m glad I read this! I’ve been living in Japan for the last three years and we head back to the states in September. I’m actually really not looking forward to it. Thinking about all of the crime and just general chaos can generate some real anxiety. Lol
    But it’s nice to see the optimism you brought to your trip back! Hopefully I can so the same. 😊

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    • Thank you, Adriana for stopping by our blog and for taking the time to comment. We can understand the anxiety that you must be feeling about returning to the US and hope that by September some things will have a semblance of “normal” when you return. Right now, it’s easy to narrow our focus on the chaos and the attempts to rollback many of the progressive programs. However, the pushback against those attempts is heartening and *wow!* what a wake up call to never take civil liberties or what the US symbolizes to so many people for granted again.

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  • I pretty much get a headache now every time l watch the news. It seems for every step we’ve taken forward, we have taken two steps back which is disheartening to say the least. It’s awesome that you recognize how fortunate and privileged you are. It’s hard to explain things, but l acknowledge the fact that l too am privileged in some ways. Good education, good job, life etc. and most especially growing up in Nigeria at a time when independence had just been won and so l didn’t have to suffer through the bad times. There is so much good in the world and l hope we can overcome the bad stuff. You visited some historic places that l would love to visit at some point. Good post :-).

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    • Thanks Kemi! Maybe someday, we’ll have to take a road trip together. Now that would be a hoot! 😎 We too feel like the US is going backwards, in some insane search for a white “Father Knows Best” or “Andy Griffith/Mayberry” parody of a television show. I think its important that we practice gratitude for what we have as well as realize that some of it was received by dumb luck, not because we deserved it. Maybe the best way to recognize the privileges we have is to continue to ensure that others have the same opportunities …

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  • Good read. Having lived in Canada most of my life I’ve never really understood the whole race thing in the US although Lissette often tells me how she felt being a Latina in New York when she was younger. She’ll still be upset about some of the prejudices she was subjected to – and she’s Latina and not black, and this was New York and not the southern states (she’ll be the first to say the blacks had it worse and that New York was a Mecca of tolerance compared to many other places).
    Meanwhile, I was going to high school in Ottawa where most of my friends were Chinese, black, Arab…and we really didn’t think much of race. As I say, I’ve never understood it all and it still surprises me that racism continues in this day and age.

    Frank (bbqboy)

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    • How lucky you were, Frank, to be raised in a place where race was a non-issue and like you, we have a difficult time understanding racism too. I think the last few years have been a wake-up call as underground hate groups have emerged to infiltrate mainstream politics and it seems to have become acceptable to cloak racism and religious intolerance under the guise of national security. The current administration in the US has brought the subject to the forefront, along with the necessity for a continued fight for other civil liberties and humanitarian causes. All we can say is “God bless Canada,” for moving forward while the US finds some of its ideals again …

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  • Timely post indeed. We just spent a couple of days playing tour guide in Washington, DC and it was good for us to do so. Sharing the sites in DC was a healthy reminder of what this country actually stands for, not the current political rhetoric, which is difficult to drown out at times. I am finding life in the US has become a learning curve, moving forward while resistance has become part of my daily life. The one thing this current administration has taught me is to pay attention and never again take anything for granted.

    Aside from the political rhetoric, Washington, DC is a vibrant city and has so much to offer, we never tire of visiting because it always seems as if there is something new to see.

    Thanks for sharing your insights as you reflect on your US road trip. You definitely visited key places that have been at the heartbeat of resistance.

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    • I have to confess to some envy that you live so close to our nation’s capital, Patti 😉 and have made a couple of visits recently with the Women’s March last month followed by some sightseeing this month. DC is one of our favorite cities and we loved spending several hours walking around the National Mall last September. Your reminder that the city is a symbol of all that’s great about the US is important as is your warning to pay attention. It’s been frightening to see how fragile our government really is and how rights and privileges long taken for granted can be so easily rescinded. Thanks for your vigilance and activism and for keeping many of us on our toes!

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  • Profoundly thoughtful post, Anita. Growing up in the U.S., I too, took so much for granted. Gettysburg was one of our families’ favorite trips. I remember when my brother and I were fascinated by the electric map that flashed through all the battles. We bought a certificate saying we owned one sq.ft. of Gettysburg. It must have been a way to support the historical society. I need to visit Gettysburg again as an adult. I am sure I would have a very different perspective.
    Thanks for reminding us to be hopeful and to take solace in the battles that were fought to protect our human rights. The marches continue, and I for one will continue to resist and persist.

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    • Gettysburg was an iconic symbol to both of us when we were kids and as adults, our first visit to the battlefield was deeply moving. The countryside is serene and beautiful and it’s hard to envision the brutality and mass slaughter that took place over 150 years ago. Lincoln’s address to commemorate those who died was inspiring and still focused on unifying the country. (Hard to contrast those meaningful and profound words of yesteryear with the message we’re receiving now that “words don’t matter.” ) The last few weeks have been a huge wake-up call on what we all stand to lose and you, for one Debbie, have already put on your marching shoes. You are inspiring!

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  • So thoughtful and sobering. :- | don’t know that I could handle living in my native land these days. But I frequently feel it tugging at my heart and wish that I were there to “resist” in person.

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    • It’s interesting, Dyanne but we feel more *American* than ever – even while we’re “joking” about wearing the maple leaf pins our Canadian friends gave us. 😉 It’s horrifying to see what a fragile thing a democracy really is and that so many thousands of good people, who contribute to our nation’s well-being and have relied upon the welcome and safety of the US, are now at risk of losing everything. We’re relieved at this point to be removed from the first-hand experience of watching the drama unfold and the rollback of many progressive values, but like you Dyanne, it would be a marvelous feeling to march with others for the things we value.

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  • The issues you raise here are the very ones that Norie and I are struggling with as we prepare to move to Portugal. Having toured many of the same sites you mentioned in your post, they do provide insights into the spectrum of the “American Experience”. I remember in particular the quiet solemnity of the Gettysburg battlefield which was matched in full by the 19th ward in New Orleans, with block after block of ruined houses, many still bearing the marks indicating how many died inside. Our conclusion is that we need to be “the change we want to see” and live that multicultural life that you mention in your closing. Hopefully, the hard right, divisive, nationalist swing being seen around the world will swing back in time.

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    • Love your motto, “Be the change we want to see,” not only because it’s uplifting but also because it’s empowering. So many times during our road trip, especially visiting the Civil Rights Memorials, it was clear that social changes begin with one person or small groups that spread and can galvanize whole communities. Our visit to Gettysburg and also to the National Mall reminded us too, of how the inspiring words of a true leader (Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr) are timeless and resonate years after they are spoken. And while Hurricane Katrina’s devastation and the events unfolding in just the last few few months had/have us wondering if this was “our” America, the people who stand up for what they believe in and the rights of others give us a lot of hope.

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  • What a historically powerful trip you took and a thoughtful post you wrote about it. The National Museum of African-American History and Culture wasn’t there the last time we visited DC and I really would like to go back to see it. You’ve given me several other places to visit too.

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    • We’re so glad we piqued your interest! We love road trips and our last one in the US, with just a few set stopping points, seemed to evolve all on its own which is the best way to travel. DC will be on our itinerary again next time we visit the US (luckily we have family who live in the area) and we’ll make a visit to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture a priority. Since it opened at the end of September, 2016, it’s been enormously popular with over a million visitors so far. There are lots of stories to be told and a unique perspective on the American experience.

      Liked by 1 person

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