If you've been to Epcot at Walt Disney World, you've probably seen The American Adventure, the audio-animatronic show that chronicles the history of the United States. The thing that I love about that attraction is that it's a surprisingly brutally honest review of our history. It doesn't gloss over slavery, the Civil War, the destruction of Native Americans or the wanton destruction of the environment. Despite all of the negatives, somehow the great experiment persists.
I always leave that attraction simultaneously proud, sad and hopeful. There's a montage at the end, to the original song "Golden Dream," where they show so much of our achievement, including shots of Space Shuttle astronauts, Dr. King, Kennedy's "Ask not" speech, famous Olympic athletes, Steve Jobs, Peter Jennings, etc. Our history is legitimately dark, but we've slowly been able to overcome some of it. It makes me want to be a part of the generation that helps us move above our worst.
I was a product of the tail end of the civil rights movement, specifically the part where desegregation was a forced issue in the schools. If environment is a deciding factor in how our views are shaped, I'm thankful for that experience. It's not that I don't see color because of it, it's that I see that color is not the determining factor in how people are valued. To not see color is to ignore the inequality that persists.
We were watching The Help today, and so at dinner, I had to explain to Simon what racism is since he wandered into the room while it was on. "Those people were stupid," he said, even though we're trying to discourage the use of that word when describing people. If it's really going to take another generation to shake racism out of our culture, hopefully I'm doing my part.
I desperately want that optimistic version of America in that Epcot attraction.