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Posts Tagged ‘Library of Congress’

The Last Great Compromise

As we took our seats where Congress makes their opinions heard and turns ideas into laws, I expected a very nicey, nicey speech about American politics.  What I got was a man sharing the difficulties of a divided house in the nicest way possible.  “We don’t get to know each other anymore.  We don’t share who we are because too often it gets turned into something we’re not and we have lost our ability to compromise.”  Yes, we have.  Kids today don’t fight and make up anymore; they kill each other.  Divorced parents don’t try to get along.  They demean and criticize despite what it does to the children.  We are more intent on being right than we are about doing right and as a society we seem to have forgotten how to listen to different opinions and compromise.  Anyone who has served on a committee or even been a Girl Scout leader knows that if you have 12 people you will have twelve opinions and in a democratic process majority rules, unless the minority decides they want to drag out the vote so nobody wins.  How is that good?  Representative Neil said it best, “until we go back to listening to each other and regarding each other as people rather than opponents, nothing will change.”  We’ve lost our way as a nation; we need to find our way back to the beginning. 

The Beginning

When this nation was just beginning to create a persona for ourselves we built our monuments and our places of work and worship in much the same way other great civilizations built theirs, with the back-breaking labor of slaves.  It’s interesting that this nation, forged for freedom, was largely built by those who were not and this is not the only irony.  Walking around Washington you are struck by the Roman and Greek architecture, by the statues of Roman Gods and American heroes.  Union station is guarded by stone statues not unlike the Chinese Stone Army.  Lincoln sits in a structure that starkly resembles the Parthenon right down to the larger than life figure residing inside.  The inscription above his head even refers to the place as a temple.  The capital building with its domed roof is so much like the domed Cathedrals of Rome and in the center of the great structure is a painting of George Washington ascending into heaven.  In a country where we are so adamant about separation of church and state, religious ideas seemed to be dripping from the walls.   Then I walked into the Library of Congress.  Originally we had no idea what the Library of Congress was, which is rather embarrassing as it is exactly what its name implies, a library belonging to Congress (duh!).  Every bit of knowledge to have ever existed resides within these walls (or nearby walls) and being a lover of wisdom and a seeker of truth the place enthralled me.  The building is in the architectural style of the Italian Renaissance and within every curve, carving, and mosaic tile every country, religion, and school of thought is represented. 

            Thomas Jefferson believed that one could never know what knowledge would be valuable when it came to governing so he collected everything and so does the Library.  Great teachers such as Aristotle, Euripides, Jesus, Mohammed, and other great thinkers are included.  All the disciplines of learning are illustrated; Science, Language, History, Art, Mechanics, etc.  In one hall marble cherub-like figures lined the staircases each dressed and holding the tools of a trade or discipline from cities around the world.  In the center of these skilled workers were two globes and more children representing the four hemispheres of the earth, an Asian, an Indian, a European and an African.  No one race above or below another.  The building continuously acknowledges contributions of knowledge and skill from all over the world.  All I could think of was yeah, this is right.  We need to get back to this; the profound belief that every person, every culture and every religion is valuable; is not better or worse, above or below and contributes something amazing and beautiful to life. 

We humans are not perfect.  We can find ugly in every culture but why did that stop us from continuing to look for the beautiful?  We so afraid to respect and embrace  different cultures or religions because we are afraid of finding out our religious choice might be wrong when there is no right or wrong religion and if there is, well it’s not ours to judge now is it.  We need to embrace the blind love of children, revel in how our differences bring substance and  beauty to our world, and once again learn how to compromise and see other people’s point of view.  That, I believe, is the path to world peace, love, appreciation and compromise.  Our country has held the answer to this timeless question all this time, who would’ve thought it was sitting smack dab in the middle of the Library of Congress.

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