It is easy to lose faith in America and the American way of life.
Politicians certainly don’t do much to reaffirm the ideals of the founding fathers. The judiciary seems impotent to stop incompetent or just evil political parties and policies (as recently demonstrated in their deferral on radical political gerrymandering).
People without means fall farther and farther behind those that do, thus ensuring that their slice of the American Dream Pie grows smaller and smaller until all they have to fight over are the crumbs from the crust.
And don’t get me started on religion, where the followers of the Christ, still the majority religion in this nation, who believe that our plot of land has some special embedded voodoo power from the invisible guy in the sky, seem to have forgotten or just choose to ignore almost every single thing that their prophet ever taught.
Meanwhile, we have gotten so used to kids getting shot up in schools, that it hardly gets a mention on the evening news because we are watching a bunch of brown kids being locked into chainlink holding cells, and any indignation is simply drowned out by the next outrage tweeted by the current grifter-in-chief.
It is easy to get discouraged. It is easy to forget that there is hope. It is easy to think and feel that our beloved country is stuck in a funk.
I saw hope recently in Washington DC. And I saw it from an unlikely group of people, ones you would might not think would be leading the charge of keeping the the ideals of the American Dream alive. That group is America’s librarians.
The recent American Library Association conference, held late in June, was not only a celebration of all things reading as one would expect, but it was also a celebration of all of those things we think are are somehow being squashed by forces that we cannot control.
The ALA quite frankly used the 5 day event to give a giant collective middle finger, right there in the nation’s capitol, to anyone that says American ideals are on the way out.
(Image from Publishers Weekly)
ALA used their convention to showcase the ideals that our country is a collective of diverse ideals from a variety of voices and all ideas are welcome, not just those yelling the loudest.
Starting off the conference with a keynote speech from young adult author and poet Jason Reynolds who led the audience on a trip through the hood, why libraries are the true temples, and his award winning YA poetry and novels to the creation of his ‘Miles Morales – A YA Spider-Man Novel.”
Follow that up with a discussion from Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor who discussed how she used libraries to influence her life, Hoda Kotb addressed the conference as did “Sin City” and “300” creator Frank Miller, CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Mo Rocca and George Takei who silenced 6000 attendees with his description of being interred as a child in a Japanese American in a concentration camp in the California desert during World War 2 and how what happened to him and his family was similar to what is happening right this minute outside of El Paso in Clint Texas.
The message was clear to all: to present what we are as Americans, we present who Americas actually are: Black, Hispanic, Gay, Asian American, Egyptian American, white, male, female. ALA made it very clear in their choosing highlighted speakers: We, as a country, are truly a melting pot of ideas.
Perhaps Takei stated it best when he reminded the crowd that in Star Trek, where he played Mr. Sulu the starship’s helmsman, the concept of IDIC, Infinite Diversity through Infinite Combinations, was the reason that there was a representative from every populated continent on Earth as part of the cast, including an alien first officer.
That ideal from the 1960’s was alive and well on the main stage at ALA.
Of course, if it were just the speakers, one could dismiss that as mere coincidence, but the entire conference was a celebration of the creative spirit with literally hundreds of authors, illustrators, graphic artists, comedians, actors all blended together.
Walking down the isles of the exhibition halls, one could find not only graphic novels with traditional white male heroes, but female heroes, gay heroes, minority super heroes, lesbian and transgender super heroes, asian and latin American superheroes, and on and on and on.
Creativity was welcomed, as much as diversity. White male middle aged authors creating characters that defied characterization used to be left in the realm of Science Fiction.
At ALA, and soon at a bookstore near you, reading materials from the totality of the American experience will be offered to you. This conference was more about the gifted talents of Americans than any GT-specific conference I have ever attended.
Within walking distance of the ALA conference, the National Mall, with it’s museums and monuments, stands as a testament to the American Dream.
One can’t help but notice that these great museums are shrines to the creativity and diversity of all of the American people, not just a select white, rich few.
Art, culture, race, technology, and history all are on display for anyone to experience. All are reminders to what diversity and creativity and drive can accomplish if freely allowed to do so.
So too was the ALA convention just down the street.
Librarians, leading the way, showing the rest of us what America should continue strive to be. We are, as a nation, better together.
E Pluribus Unum.
Thank you librarians.
Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.
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