Saturday, October 29, 2022

Photo of the Day: Fifth Avenue, Source of ‘Some Semblance of American Unity’

Among the many photos I have taken over the years, I searched unsuccessfully for something with the wide vistas that Kathryn Jean Lopez mentioned in the following contribution to a National Review collection of articles from Sept. 9, 2019 on “What We Love About America”:

“Freedom, in fact, is what I feel like I’m breathing in as I see the blue of the sky or the road that leads down to Washington Square Park. Anything seems possible on Fifth Avenue. And one miracle in particular: some semblance of American unity. At some places on Fifth, the Stars and Strikes seem to be everywhere. It’s as if America does, in fact, still mean something we can all agree on. I keep looking and I think about [Abraham Lincoln’s phrase] ‘the mystic chords of memory.’ Fifth Avenue inspires gratitude. I don’t want to look at my phone. I want to keep walking. American culture today can be overwhelming with noise and soil-crushing images. But here, even with the traffic, things seem quieter.”

Then I came across what you see here: a photo of a Tom Ford shop display at the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store in Midtown Manhattan, which I took a few days before the Fourth of July six years ago.

In one way, it seems a bit crass to transform the Stars and Stripes—something people have carried and even died for—into such commercial fodder.

But at least, the instinct this window display appealed to was pride in America. These days, the most powerful instinct is fear.

Maybe, at this current perilous moment in American history—when the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been critically wounded in their home, when Capitol Hill lawmakers of both parties and Supreme Court justices are investigating, as never before, security arrangements for themselves and their families—it would do well for us all to catch our breath, and remember the “gratitude” and “semblance of American unity” that Ms. Lopez evoked.

In a tweet from last night about the assault on Paul Pelosi, Ms. Lopez also noted that “Sometimes it’s better to pray for fellow human beings and that by some miracle the temperature of hate and anger is turned down.”

Well, I suppose that’s a start. But more than a few of us are getting tired of hearing “thoughts and prayers” or their equivalent evoked for victims of violence.

More basically—and painfully—we need an examination of conscience, and a commitment to the “mystic chords of memory” and “firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right” that infused President Lincoln with the political courage to take on those accepting aggression to tear the Union asunder.

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