We went to The National Archives. This was on my D.C. list though I was in no way prepared for how emotional I would be. I saw The Constitution and one of four replications of The Magna Carta, which hugely inspired the creation of our constitution. Holy smokes!! I wasn't expecting to be blown away and I confess to getting teary-eyed. "Those are some old pieces of paper," is what Ben had to say. And me? I felt humbled and full of gratitude while thinking of those guys hammering out the details to what has become the foundation of what we are all about. I couldn't begin to wrap my brain around what I was really looking at...and since I haven't always been a diligent student of history, I wasn't expecting to feel much of anything.
But I did, and the other thing that kept niggling at me was that despite that whole 'liberty and justice for all' thing, women and LGBT folks and African Americans have miles to go before they sleep despite our founders clearly- worded intentions. I guess the beauty then, is that we can still fight. That, too, is basis of our democracy.
I don't know if patriotism is the right word to describe my feelings. It's more of a renewed sense of appreciation for who we are as a nation.
A full circle moment came when we visited a museum dedicated to the idea of free speech. One of the first items you see when you walk through this place is a world map colored according to the countries who have free, limited, or completely censored speech. That was sobering and you can guess without really knowing what the color red means.
If you follow THIS link, you can poke around each country and learn about the criteria they used for qualifying the press and speech rights.
As riled up as people can get about their beliefs, the great thing is that we CAN get riled up and all of our opinions matter. We can agree to disagree and still be kind and thoughtful. And we don't have to read everything that is written.
This is just one little nugget of a big week that was hard for me to take in. There is more to come as I process it all.
But let me be clear in saying that while my kids took in the history, asked some good questions, and were game for most of what came their way, their favorite part was the zoo.