On Good Friday, I traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the interment of a friend’s mother at Arlington National Cemetery. Cheryl and I took the rest of the weekend to hang around the National Mall. Let me tell you what we saw.
We saw thousands of our fellow Americans in every flavor you can imagine. From Americans with almost no melanin in their skin to those rich with it. Americans who had come here from every corner of the globe, many in their traditional garb. We saw dozens of interracial couples, many with their beautiful children whose faces reflected their combined heritage. We saw Americans being unfailingly kind to each other. Laughing, smiling, sharing where they were from, what they had seen, what they planned to see. We saw them volunteering to take families’ pictures for each other so entire families could be included in the shot.
We saw people stopping military personnel and thanking them for their service. We saw Americans standing at the Vietnam War memorial with tears streaming down their faces. We saw tourists at Arlington stopping and removing their hats or saluting as our funerary procession passed. We saw people poring over the words of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, many I suspect for the first time reading the greatest speech ever written in the English language.
What we did not see was the toxic polarization that the media constantly tells us is tearing our country apart. We saw almost no hats or t-shirts with political slogans. There were no protests. There was no one arguing or yelling at each other. All we saw were thousands of our fellow Americans basking in the pride of their remarkable country and its history.
Our visit to the National Mall once again reminded me of the fundamental goodness and decency of the American people. We allow ourselves to be seduced in doubting this truism by a media fixated on showing us the relatively rare examples of Americans who are not good and decent. I wish all of us could remember that, as Hans Rosling said in his book “Factfullness,” what we read and see in the media is “filtered through the mass media [executives], which love nonrepresentative, extraordinary events and shuns normality.”
It also once again underscored to me how unworthy our current government is of the extraordinary people it is supposed to represent. Unfortunately, we have allowed it to become the captive of two corrupt, power-mad political parties, which are attempting to wreck our constitutional order and allow extremist minorities to rule. A danger about which almost every Founder warned us.
Dramatic reenactments of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor have attributed a quote to Japanese Admiral Yamamoto on the victory: “I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.”* The American people are long-suffering, and most are disinclined to actively participate in politics. But at some point, the two incumbent parties are going to exhaust the American people’s patience and find that they have awakened a giant filled with a terrible resolve.
*There is no historical record that Yamamoto actually spoke these words, but historians have found several quotes to this effect in his diaries.