If You don’t Feel Patriotic in Philadelphia, then…

…you’re simply not patriotic.

I know, it was a feeble ultimatum. Or clause-closer. Or whatever piece of phrasing. But you get the point.

Let’s put it this way: I don’t care for cities. Not empirically, mind you, but as vacation destinations. See, I live in one (Atlanta), and while they all have a different flair, I’d rather not endure buildings and traffic and quite so many drug stores. But for YEARS I’ve wanted to go to Philadelphia. Because I am patriotic.

My patriotism has nothing to do with politics (at least I don’t think it does). Mine is about baseball and apple pie. That people chose America for a better life (and spending time in Philly taught me why; stay tuned).  It’s about wide open spaces, and fireworks that send chills down my spine while the music swells.

Let’s Start with the Liberty Bell

“Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto the inhabitants thereof.” – Leviticus

An impressive inscription on a bell that started with a simple function: summon the State Assembly to meetings. It used to be called the State House Bell until, in the 1830’s, Abolitionists named it the Liberty Bell. It had a better ring to it. [wink]

At 2,000 pounds, the bell took a toll during the Revolutionary war and sustained a thin crack. The now-famous rift is from attempts to repair said crack. Oops!

The museum showcases the Liberty Bell’s impact–and I had no idea. It’s a symbol in every major American rights issue. It went on tour across the U.S., traveling by train and was greeted by giddy crowds. It’s beloved across the world. Cast iron imbued with so much meaning.

I was admittedly disheartened that it’s not still in a bell tower, but suppose the logistics of touring that would be cumbersome. So fine, I’ll endure the one-story, air-conditioned facility if I have to.

liberty bell

Schoolhouse Rock

“We the people” is the start of every banner, every phrase, every…everything at the National Constitution Center. And two things happened as I heard this phrase over and over. I realized its dynamic poetry, and I couldn’t stop singing Schoolhouse Rock. Neither are really all that bad.

A spectacular presentation combines a live performer, lights, and video on scrims introduces you to the power of having a Constitution. “Who are we? What makes us a people? Could a Constitution make us a nation?”

Before America fought the Revolutionary War and developed the Constitution, no one had ever deliberately chosen to rule themselves. I was stunned to learn this. Power of all sorts reigned, but never from the people. The development of representatives (while still elite people) was incredible. The goal was to control power by dividing it among the presidential, congressional and judiciary branches. With no czar or king to rule on whim, I finally understood why people flocked to America from around the world.

The Center’s exhibits showcased the ways that people influence and inform the country. The responsibility and the power of jury duty. The impact and honor of voting. It also featured the reciprocal: what the nation does for its citizens, like national highway systems.

And then there was a video of people taking the Oath of Citizenship. Serious, devout, focused. I cried–how could you not? I had never read the oath before, have you? It’s powerful in its beauty and intimidating in its commitment. As a born citizen its taken for granted that we’ll defend the country, when choosing to become a citizen, those words take on a very intense meaning.

What Happened at Independence Hall? Nothing Much…

They only signed the Declaration of Independence at, er, Independence Hall. And then later thought it would be a good place to debate the elements of the Constitution and write that here, too. Minor stuff.

independence hall exterior

independence hall interior

Oh to be a fly on the wall! All of the letters and reenactments use formal and civil language. I somehow don’t think those brilliant men kept their cool, even though they wore expensive wigs. A debate is a debate, and things get heated – that’s when it gets interesting. I’d love to see the sidebars happen; the huffing and puffing as they got cranky about, wait for it, ideas of liberty and justice for all. Because even though these were grand and altruistic endeavors, there were still opinions and egos and men involved.

***

And back to the start. Do you consider yourself patriotic?
Are you patriotic to America?
To other countries, too?
What inspires your patriotism?

6 Responses

Your Comments
Your post of the quote from Leviticus says it all. The bell reminds us of the message. Great photos. Happy trails. Rabbi Cohen

great observation. about the quote – not the pics.

07.28.12

Great history lesson/reminder, as most details had been learned many decades ago. We were in Philly two years ago to tour the new Amercan Jewish History Museum. If you have time, it’s well worth it. Enjoy!

07.28.12

You were moved as I was by the fact that “what happened here, absolutely did not stay here.” but guided the course of history. Look up the Broadway play (or movie) “1776,” and you’ll hear the heated arguments and frustrations of Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Hancock, etc. from all those years ago.

I just found your blog. First of all, you’re living my RV fantasy—which my husband (for better or for worse) does not share. But, at least I have traveled/get to travel a fair amount so I shouldn’t be greedy.

I’m a Philadelphian. I’m sorry I just missed you. I love showing and sharing my home town. I’m glad you found the Constitution Center. I’m a recovering lawyer and it is one of the first places I take out of town visitors. Even my British friends have cried during that intro “play”.

Philly is “known” for it’s historical sights, cheese steaks (highly overrated IMHO) and boorish sports fans (guilty as charged), but there is so much else to see and do in the city and the region.

BTW, when you say things must have gotten heated during the Declaration of Independence debate, that is so true in more ways than one. I don’t know if you got to experience the Philadelphia muggies (hot and humid), but basically, the founding fathers were locked into an airless room (no AC, of course) because they had to keep the doors and windows shut for secrecy. (Lack of process transparency—nothing new). ]

I look forward to following your blog and I’d be honored if you would take a look at mine. I don’t know if you like links in comments, so feel free to delete this one and I’ll send you an email with it: http://www.boomeresque.com

good point about the lack of process transparency. and i agree, i didn’t like the cheesesteak!

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