Balak, Dead50, and Frederick Douglass

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The U.S. was in a “lingering period of childhood,” said Frederick Douglass on the occasion of Independence Day in 1852. “Were the nation older, the patriot’s heart might be sadder, and the reformer’s brow heavier. Its future might be shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets go out in sorrow. There is consolation in the thought that America is young.”

At this point, we’ve got another 163 years on us, and many a patriot’s heart is indeed sadder, reformers’ brows heavier: Too many of Douglass’ words still ring true today, however much has changed since 1852; for too many U.S. citizens, a day celebrating U.S. ideals is one “that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.”

Meanwhile, we are about the enter Shabbat Balak, with a fantastical Torah reading that centers around strange visions, an outside prophet’s view of an inchoate nation, and a people’s struggle with diversity.

In addition, tonight begins the final series of Fare Thee Well concerts, prompting many a meditation on youth, age, and the length of the strange trips we’re on as individuals and communities.

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