Monday, March 07, 2005

Philadelphia promise

Today feels like the first day of Spring. It's 65º and the last scraps of snow in the park and along the sidewalk are melting.

My brother Ed and his wife Susan came from Maryland this weekend to attend the Philadelphia flower show. On Sunday we spent some time in and around Independence Square, taking in the historic sites. These always inspire me; you can feel the optimism of revolution and new beginnings all around.

We visited a portrait gallery and looked into the eyes of George & Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Merriweather Lewis, William Clark and other lesser-known luminaries of that era. The era's accomplished painters were able to capture their subjects' personalities as well as appearances. What an exciting time to have lived, when the quest for human dignity and freedom was in full flower. People were inquisitive and wanted to learn as much about the world as possible. Education was highly valued, and society's progress seemed assured. A clear line of demarcation between religion and government was established.

Somewhere things went wrong. The trainwreck of a government we have these days would surely cause the founders to shudder. The corruption, double-talk, raw-nerve political "discourse" and opportunistic wars would make them angry, I think. They'd see "No Child Left Behind" for the bullshit it really is. They probably wouldn't like the blurring of boundaries between church and state by tax funded "faith-based" initiatives.

Ed, Susan and I turned the corner and headed towards Washington Square. A strong chill wind, one of winter's last gasps, made us shiver as it gusted through the bare branches of the trees growing over the unmarked graves of countless Revolutionary War soldiers. I wondered how the soldiers who had given their lives to overthrow the craven King George would like the new "King" George and his followers. What would they make of the two faced liars, and the born-agains, home-schoolers, government haters and war-mongers who support them? Would they feel that giving up their lives was worth it?


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