Tuesday, March 3, 2015

America Under Construction

Last week I took a vacation to Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia. I saw a number of friends (mostly from my Wheaton days), did a few touristy things (including a concert at the Kennedy Center, something that has been on my bucket list for a while), and relaxed at my parents' vacation timeshare resort in Alexandria.

One of my activities was a visit to the United States Capitol. The Capitol dome is currently surrounded by scaffolding, the most visible element of a major restoration project.

The United States Capitol, looking southeast from the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and 7th Street

The image of the Capitol dome under construction reminded me of a scene from my favorite TV show, The West Wing. Josh Lyman, the Deputy White House Chief of Staff, is meeting with a candidate for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, preparing for the Senate confirmation hearings. They are vigorously discussing race relations in the United States, and the candidate, Jeff, asks Josh to take out a dollar bill and look at the back. Josh does, and Jeff points out that the pyramid on the Great Seal is unfinished.

"The seal is meant to be unfinished," Jeff says, "because this country's meant to be unfinished. We're meant to keep doing better. We're meant to keep discussing and debating..."

What if we were to remember that more often? In these days of ideological battles, when our country seems so polarized, what if we were to remember that this grand idea called America, this grand experiment in freedom and in government by the people's representatives, is unfinished? If we did not expect it to be perfect (the word "perfect" means "complete"), would we find it all less frustrating, and perhaps double down on our efforts to work together as a nation?

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