Category: Bully Pulpit

Patriotism can involve loving one’s homeland for the diversity of cultural enclaves it encompasses, while not excluding the rest of humanity or claiming the superiority of our homeland to every other on earth. To be sure, global thinking (in the form of economic globalization or cultural imperialism) has a lot of negative baggage attached to it, but having a cosmopolitan outlook should be encouraged in tandem with patriotic thinking, not seen as its opposite.

Now is a difficult time to be an American. Never have we witnessed such a massive onslaught on—and undoing of—the basic tenets of decency in public life, freedom of protest, freedom of speech, freedom to breathe clean air, freedom to make decisions about our reproductive health, the protection of minority rights, equal justice under the law, and respect for science and empirical grounds of truth. Rarely have we seen the door slammed shut with such force against ideals of international cooperation and respect.

This Midwest—St. Paul, St. Louis, and Chicago—is familiar to me. It is where both my adult children live. Our son and his family lived first in St. Paul and now in St. Louis; our daughter and her wife are in Chicago. And I, an ardent New Yorker, was born in Indiana. These have never been flyover states for me, but their newfound political power came as a shock. How have we liberal academics become so disconnected from our country’s interior?

Museums can be spaces where memories are created; where a wide range of identities and experiences can be explored and validated; where people can engage with new ideas and perspectives; where individuals can connect with their past, reflect upon their present, and imagine their future; and where people can interact with one another in a deeply profound or an enjoyably casual manner.

Because of the power inherent in images, collections of these formidable objects themselves accrete power. These display and storage spaces—whether actual or virtual—may quickly become politicized, as the museum staff and the local community wrestle with the symbolic nature of representations.