Saturday, September 15, 2012

Staten Island and 9/11/12

I wandered over to nearby Staten Island today to photograph and interpret the Battle of Staten Island (aka Sullivan's Raid) on August 22, 1777.  Because the British had men positioned at Ward's Point, I headed first towards Conference House Park.  The Conference House was where, on September 11, 1776, British Admiral Lord Richard Howe met with John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Edward Rutledge to see if further war could be averted and a settlement negotiated.

I stumbled upon the opening ceremony by the reenactors.

While I did not stay for the actual dramatic performance, I was struck by the reenactor who made the opening remarks.  He spoke of what happened here in 1776, and the events not only of 2001 but of this past week.  He emphasized to those present the fragile nature of freedom.  While we often hear political leaders pay lip service to this, and while it is easy to become cynical, it was particularly moving to hear this "average" citizen in such a setting, standing quite literally in the footsteps of some of the giants of American, if not world, history, speak from the heart.  The expressions on these soldiers' faces reflect the sincerity of his remarks.

Being American does not mean adopting either the Democratic or Republican political platform as articulated; at best, those are visions and at worst, little more than propaganda.  To understand what being American means is to attend events like this, in the places where they happened, and think about the connection across the centuries.  It is a shared history and a shared culture, whether one reaches back generations or a year, as an American.

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