|The Washington Monument with a ring of American flags around its base.|
I remember a scene from the summer of 2009 quite distinctly. The annual Cherry Blossom festival was on in Washington DC and the area around the Tidal Basin was packed with visitors enjoying a warm spring day in the US capital. There were clearly people from everywhere in the world. This wonderful microcosm of the United Nations was on its feet admiring the wispy blossoms of the cherry trees and their reflection in the waters of the basin. In the green areas around the basin, families sat around on picnic blankets eating ice-cream, playing games, chatting and laughing.
At one end of the basin sat the stately Jefferson Memorial while at the other end stood the iconic symbol of DC – the Washington Monument.
Sitting 200 feet from the base of the Monument, I observed a Muslim family, amongst the hundreds of other people. The adults in the group were sitting around talking while just outside their circle, a little girl in a head scarf was saying her prayers on a prayer mat spread out on the lawns. From where I stood, the ring of American flags at the base of the Monument served as a fine backdrop to the little figure. Although I am personally uncomfortable with religion in the public sphere, this scene was heart-warming and I felt like capturing it in a photograph.
To me, it spoke of the freedom and openness that Americans enjoy and the promise of liberty and the “golden door” that so many from my family have benefited from. It also reinforced my own uniformly amazing experience living, studying and working there.
More than a year after that day, I’m on the other side of the ocean, with the wonderful chatter of different languages and accents of that spring morning replaced by the ugly noises of hatred from politicians and ordinary people. I want this silly season to end soon.