Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dinging our bell

Growing up in the Philadelphia area, I frequently visited Independence Hall on Chestnut Street and liked to throw a penny at the Liberty Bell to make it ding. You can’t throw pennies at it now. The bell now enjoys a maximum security existence in the Liberty Bell Center across the street. One now must undergo a thorough historical orientation, after a detailed security search, before seeing it un-dinged. I don’t think I took the bell and hall for granted as much as recognizing them as places and things quite real and approachable. History is history in books but this was history I could touch…and ding.

And at this Independence Hall, there once gathered a group of men (no women, please) who formulated this declaration of our present independence and later the constitution for this still imperfect, yet beautiful, union of ours; a Union defended by some, succeeded from in later years. Gettysburg battlefield, a frequent family outing destination, made that union concept quite real to me as well.

...but meanwhile, back at Independence Hall in downtown Philly, where one can secure a delicious cheesesteak for lunch from the numerous trailer-truck vendors…sweet peppers and onions?

Independence Hall gives me thoughts about local governance despite its federal model birthplace. I contemplate all those men from the various colonies at the time. Some where appointed delegates. Some were self-appointed nobility. Some, like Ben Franklin, were one of the appointed committee of five to draft the declaration. He also resided across the street. All these people, from various backgrounds with localized experiences, talents, position (lest we forget some were royally appointed gentry), and perspectives. Colonies had nuanced differences in their local governance procedures and methods. All had Parliament in London as a model in there heads I suppose. For example, Franklin had recently visited England and Ireland. I wonder how that coloured his views in the summer of 1776…

From local governance ultimately to union, from “…all politics is local” (thanks for that phrase, Tip O’Neill) to our present fascination and instantaneous C-Span access to our federal Capitol’s gleaming edifice on “The Hill”. Capitol Watch…and we watch closely. It’s been quite a journey from colony to Philly (with a stop in the Big Apple) to DC. It’s been an interesting few years watching our local commentary (and dwindling number of commentators) shrink while our national media swelled to a very lucrative profit producing production. Our attention is drawn to Washington, DC along with our…Hope. “All politics seem national” now, Tip.

It’s beginning to feel like a new colonial time to me here in the Midwest territory. Our delegates along with the self-appointed gentry seem a bit too distant from home in their cozy second homes in Georgetown, Fairfax, and Alexandria.

Local pamphlets, what we now call blogs, have a revolutionary spice to them reminiscent of Franklin’s Philly print shop. This blog adds good local focus in an otherwise national news media stream.

Our new halls of independence could just be places like this where we exchange, listen, respond, and form new ways for unison, while discussing topics that make us wish to personally secede rather than collectively succeed. Our new bells won’t be cast in an English foundry, like the one I dinged. We’re casting ballots now, casting about in our local pond for new ways to govern this colony of ours, mindful that we owe a delegate or two to the national assembly. It’s a difficult exercise in balance…from local to national assemblies of all kinds lest we forget those cool business conventions which you may attend. Vegas, DC…similarly themed parks, right?

It’s nice to visit places like Independence Hall (grab a cheesesteak across the street), Capitol Hill, The White House, Vegas, Hollywood...the Big Apple. It’s entertaining to watch and read about national league rock star governing and self-appointed resourced ditherers. But it’s good to come back to the colony, your local territory. Take care of home. And ding your own local bells. It starts here. It all “started” in the colonies and continues to do so now.

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