Andrea here, tomorrow is America’s birthday, and like all birthdays, it’s a time for festive celebration—red, white and blue cakes, fireworks, parades and general merriment as the milestone serves as a traditional high point in summer across the country. But as we gear up for a day of fun and backyard grilling, I also have a few more serious thoughts about the occasion.
Despite our flaws and foibles—and as a collection of “we, the people,” the country has many—there is much to celebrate. Our forefathers founded this brash experiment with some very radical ideas about equality and the notion of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And throughout our history, those ideals have served as a guiding light, even when at times, the beacon has seemed dimmed by dark clouds.
Now, as you know, all the Wenches love history, and celebrate the lessons it tells us about humanity. So, one of the things I’m truly happy to celebrate is that the history of America—and indeed, the world—is beginning to be told in new and more inclusive ways that reflect a more real story than the mythic origin stories of our childhood textbooks.
I’ve recently read two really interesting books on American history that give a broader, more nuanced look at our country—not only the warts, but also the people whose contributions to its greatness never made into the history books of the past. (I highly recommend both These Truths, by Harvard professor and New Yorker writer Jill Lapore and The British Are Coming, by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Rick Atkinson.)
And looking at our history through a new prism is also going beyond books. Museums are beginning to present a broader look at the people who shaped our culture—the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is just one of the wonderful examples. And then, you have the Museum of Modern Art, in NYC, which has just shut down for a time to totally revamp its collection to give the creative work of all people—regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or religion—their proper place in the history of art.
That throughout the country we’re forging new traditions and writing the heretofore forgotten or ignored stories is, for me, something to really celebrate. Our history is so much richer, more textured—and truer. And we're stronger as a nation when we listen and learn from all of our voices, and weave them into the multi-color tapestry that is America.