Chiseled into the granite outside and the walls inside the National Archives…
“What is Past, is Prologue.”
DC is a shrine to a young nation-state that was unburdened by geography in its origins and that established its identity in relatively easy war and conquest. DC is also an aspiration of an ideal nation-state, with the not-so-subtle hint that no other nation has lived up to that ideal as well as we have.
Yet, there is hidden among the flowery prose and self-congratulatory rhetoric, a hint of humility. You have to look for it; it is not easily found. But there are hints, like this one at the Archives, that a nation proud of its supposed place in the globe might yet have resources to call upon should we choose a less flamboyant role on the world’s stage.
If we can re-discover humility, we will elect collaborators and compromisers instead of ideological extremists. In that humility, we will find courage to confess our complicity in the chaos of Iraq and Syria. In that humility, we will seek a different persona of leader than those remaining in our presidential race.
In that humility, we’ll find strength to repent of our ongoing racism. We’ll find defiant courage to welcome the world’s hurting and face up to our own religious extremism. In that humility, we’ll gladly surrender our righteous indignation over guns and bathrooms. We’ll confess that we love life, so long as our own is preserved.
What pride and power can tear apart, humility and grace can sew together. May you and I find that humility in ourselves, our families, our friends, our churches, and yes, in the circle of friends and family with whom we have profound political differences.
If we are courageous enough to re-write our personal and national histories with humility, we can expect a national denouement worthy of writing, whenever that ending may be. If not, then the Archives will be both historian and prophet.