A Chinese fortune cookie in Philadelphia after takeaways shared with my dear friend Alyssa:
"Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation."
Today on the way from Washington DC and Phildelphia we went to Gettysburg. Now, I love history but I haven't really engaged as much as a can (or perhaps should) with various aspects of American history. I admit, the main reason I remember the opening of Abraham Lincoln's speech is because Arnold Schwarzenegger's class performed it in Kindergarten Cop. Having seen the Lincoln Memorial in DC yesterday, and having seen a photo shortly after of the spot outside the Memorial where MLK shared his 'I have a dream' speech, I found myself reflecting on discontent.
And yet, I am also cynical about Gettysburg. I am cynical about war, cynical about the narrative that the civil war is about America being a country which is concerned about the lives of Black people, and cynical about the massive chasm between the story told at Gettysburg and the story told at the National Museum of the American Indian in DC - not because of the stories thmselves as much as the extent to which they don't reference each other. Stories of Indigneiety and colonialism and survivance are in one world, and stories of enslavement and race and abolition are in the other.
Discontent, however, as a starting point for "progress" is perhaps shared between these varying histories. As my fortune cookie says, it is the first step - perhaps not the heart or mind of 'progress' but certinaly the 'first step.' Discontent is about action; about taking a step rather than simply haing another thought. It's about doing.
After spending time thinking about Black and Indigenous histories in this continent, I find myself wanting to find a way to make all the stories fit: respectfully, meaningfully, appropriatelty.