A visit to Independence Hall is a strangely mixed experience, certainly for a non-American and I suspect for many Americans too. While the building and its genuine history make it movingly talismanic, even for a foreigner, the factitious version of the evolution of democracy offered by our guide was mind-bogglingly reductive and misrepresentative. From what he was saying, one was being encouraged to believe that democracy as a political ideal began in 18th-century Philadelphia: nothing about its beginnings in Greek city states, nothing about its slow evolution through the matching evolution of the British parliamentary system -- merely a jingoistic and false assertion of how the Philadelphia congress introduced democracy to the world, and the direct line from that to contemporary Afghanistan! Thus a paean in praise of democracy had the subtext of a paean in praise of modern American foreign policy. The simplifications were absurd, and were I indeed an American who had brought children to this important site to introduce them to iconic aspects of the creation of their country, I'd be horrified at the misdirection to which they were being subjected. This guide's performance was all the more surprising by contrast with the measured, detailed, and genuinely informative introduction to Congress Hall that we had been given on the preceding day by a much younger guide, who stuck with the facts and kept away from simple-minded patriotic proselytizing.
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