It starts in kindergarten. The flag in the corner. You place your little hand over your heart and — even if the words are too daunting — attempt to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. To live in the United States is a privilege, and soon you learn about the three branches of government. Then, in high school civics, you begin to see shades of gray: that the government, much like your teenage classmates, is imperfect, and that perhaps the flag represents more than just Uncle Sam and the Fourth of July.
In college, you indulge and explore the evils of the overlords, corporate greed and social injustice. You wonder how things could be so unfair, and why no one is willing to stand up for the truth. You've been given the right to vote, and you wield it like a club, bashing down the ignorance and injustice with energy and a spirit of invincibility. You are here to change the world, and it will change because you will make it so.
And then, like a stone that comes to rest after its journey down a raging river, you stop. You settle in. You start to look at the government, at your parents, at the talking heads on TV, at the people around you at this very dinner party, and you marvel. How does it all work? How does America, with all its technology, diversity and distractions, come together at all? How can it be, that each American takes this journey and lands in a different place, each of us perceiving a government that controls us with its laws, with our money, with our time and hard work, and spits out this — a life our forefathers would find confusing, frenetic and overwhelming?
This thing, a creature of insightful and imperfect men, is absorbed into us all. We are products of our government and culture, a people who have mutated and adjusted in ways our framers could never have imagined. The threads of this process, the tendrils of our collective mind, have slowly changed us from then until now, almost imperceptibly, like that same cloudy stone crystallizing towards clarity. That flag in the corner of the room is made of these threads, and now you're a child again, filled with a different kind of wonder.
With a Perspective, I'm Les Bloch.
Les Bloch is a writer and project manager for a stone restoration company.