I am currently reading Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow, a monster-novel that spans George Washington’s life from cradle to grave. Don’t ask how far I’ve made it through the 928 pages – I’ll probably lie anyhow. As I read, sitting on the couch with a Virginia bourbon, just down the road from Washington’s birthplace in the historic Northern Neck, I can’t help but turn to the election results of the day’s presidential primary.
It’s hard to read this book about the very messy, bloody birth of our nation while simultaneously watching and hearing our current presidential candidates verbally attack each other for the top of the electoral heap. In some ways, the story today mirrors the dirty and divided process of our early formation. And yet, it’s hard for my sensitive ears to hear, after we’ve come so far to honor and protect the rights and freedoms of all our neighbors. It makes me wonder if our memories are so poor that we can behave like the past two centuries of progress and difficult passage didn’t matter.
I’m not really sure why I’m even writing this post except to encourage everyone to stand in the shoes of our ancestors, listen to the stories that have been told, and truly hear the moments that reverberate through history as milestones of our collective experience. You don’t have to be a lover of history to do this and you don’t have to read 928 page biographies, but you can visit historic sites, research your family history, read the cliff notes, and begin to remember what others before you experienced as a grateful expression for the life that you live today.
If you are in Virginia:
Historic Sites of Virginia
Virginia Untold: The African-American Narrative at the Library of Virginia