Etgar 36

Day 32: Philadelphia

By Rachel Arayni:

We began our day by visiting the constitution museum where we watched the formation of our government via a live multimedia presentation of the events leading to the birth of the constitution. Afterwards, we were free to peruse the exhibits. The museum chronicles American history through the progression of the constitution, as well as through the evolving interpretations of various passages. As I was reading about the addition of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote, I couldn’t help but marvel at the historic nature of this convention where we witnessed a women become the presidential nominee for a major political party. If Clinton is elected, no longer will little girls look at all the presidents and not be able to envision themselves sitting in the White House.
Continuing to walk around the museum, we were exposed to various Supreme Court rulings and majority opinions coupled with the corresponding dissenting opinions. In a world where it seems that congress is plagued by partisanship, it is refreshing to see that even at the highest levels of our government, the freedom to engage in civil discourse is being actively practiced by the courts.

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Subsequent to our visit to the museum, we made our way down to the convention center where we came across a protest. A group of people carried signs that stated that “Netenyahu is a war criminal”, “stop the Israeli apartheid”, and “boycott Israel”. In the spirit of civil discourse, it is only right that we listen to a diverse set of views. So, we had an impromptu meeting with a man from a Jewish Voice For Peace, a leftist activist group that campaigns to restore “dignity” to the Palestinian people. They believe that this dignity, which they feel that Israel has taken away through the “Israeli apartheid” can be restored via the use of Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions. While his stance may be one that I abhor, I still derive value from the process of being confronted with sentiments that differ from my own. We thanked the man for his time and continued down the cobblestone street towards the convention. Juxtaposed with the RNC, the surrounding area was fairly clear of chaos and pandemonium.

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On the inside of the convention center, brightly colored booths lined the walls declaring support for all sorts of political issues ranging from Save the Children to Pro-Life Democrats to J Street. We were bombarded with lobbyists whose passionate rhetoric tried to win our support. We were given buttons and candy and numerous leaflets in the hopes that one day, we might side with their cause.
With our arms full of political goodies, we headed towards Reading Terminal Market for lunch.

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Next, we walked through “protest square” where we heard the cries of the vanquished “Bernie or Bust” supporters. It was overwhelmingly apparent that the hope Bernie ignited within his voter base has begun to dwindle. At some point, these Sanders supporters will be forced to reconcile  the inevitable reality that many Americans are grappling with; Clinton or Trump will be the next president of the United States.

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A short walk of five minutes  brought us to the Liberty Bell and to Independence Hall, where delegates once fought over the future of their fledgling nation. The connection between the events that occurred at this location, couple with our own experience observing today’s convention, permanently binds us to the founding fathers whose constitution gives us the right to share our views. Everything we do on this trip pays homage to them and their efforts to “form a more perfect union”.

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When we entered the hotel, none of us could have imagined that the seemingly ordinary man in front of us would turn out to be able he of the most insightful and enlightened speakers of the entire trip. Daryl Davis is the son of an ambassador for the state department and a renowned pianist. He consistently destroyed the ideology of the ku klux klan by fostering interpersonal relationships with high level klan leaders, eradicating their ability to view African Americans as “the other”. Davis set out to create the first novel written by an African American featuring interviews with klan members. Through his conversations, he discovered what he feels to be the path to poor relations: “ignorance leads to fear, fear to hatred, hatred to destruction”. So, he decided to befriend people who believe that by virtue of his skin color, he is innately less intelligent. Yet, overtime, these klansmen understood the flaws in their outlook. Many of these men later left the klan due to their friendship with Daryl. He truly changed the world through his ability to listen to people he disagreed with; Still, he was able to acknowledge their humanity.

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At this point in the meeting, he unzipped his bag and pulled out a kkk robe and hood. The air was instantly sucked out of the room.  We stood in awe as he explained that it was given to him by a former klan member that now considers Daryl to be one of his best friends. He then proceeded to highlight various issues he believes still plagues society. He told a heart wrenching tale of police brutal and corruption that he personally experienced. He followed this up by explaining the many ways we implicitly put a negative connotation with blackness such as black cats being bad luck, black magic being evil, blacked balled meaning to be shunned, etc. He culminated his talk by highlighting the fact that women are often the victims of these same negative biases. In the wake of the first black president and first female presidential nominee, it is vital to acknowledge that there is still work to be done to create a more just country. However, Daryl’s story provides hope that understanding can be bred through dialogue