Celebrating pools, celebrating America

For July 4, nine opinion writers from the Washington Post wrote about things they wanted to celebrate.

They included block parties, the youth of our country, sacrifice in service of freedom and our country’s women athletes.

One of my favorite writers, Alyssa Rosenberg, was grateful for public swimming pools.

Though they’ve often been contested spaces, community pools at their best offer the same cheap, or even free, delight to everyone: the relief of a plunge into cold water on a hot summer day. 

… Community pools, like many other public resources, have been neglected. The pleasures a swim offers remind us that these public goods — and the vision they embody — are worth fighting for.”

I immediately thought of Nashville, one of those places where the public pools were “contested spaces,” where the pool in Centennial Park closed and never reopened in order to prevent integration. (This, from Erin E. Tocknell is an excellent read.)

The same Centennial Park which has a statue of a Confederate soldier.

But it’s the same Centennial Park where a monument honors the women’s suffrage movement, as Tennessee was the last state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment.

My grandmother and my father-in-law are both in their 80s, and my mother-in-law will be soon. The 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, so all of their mothers lived during a time when women couldn’t vote.

Maybe 99 years seems like a long time, but it really isn’t.

And by the way, just in case anyone thinks I’m not a fan … I love Nashville.

Our country has always been, certainly is now and probably forever will be full of contradictions, the type of messiness that anyone striving toward “a more perfect Union” must confront.

Even on this day, as we celebrate the founding of our nation, it is for a declaration signed by men seeking freedom, independence and self-government, but only men, many of whom owned slaves.

But the reason we’re grappling with those issues as Americans, in America, is because those men got together in Philadelphia 243 years ago today and signed a document that told Great Britain that the at-the-time 13 colonies had had enough.

They weren’t asking for independence; no, they were declaring it.

And they put their names on it, which would have made it really easy for the British authorities to know who to round up for execution if it all went wrong.

And the colonists fought a war that started in Lexington and Concord the year before … and they won.

They won.

A lot of times, we’ve done it right as a country. Sometimes, we haven’t. But I’ll never not be amazed by how we came to be.

Happy Independence Day.


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