/ 4 July 2010

Today I opened up the Sunday paper to read a cover story in the Parade magazine insert about “America’s most patriotic town.” The irony was so deep I almost couldn’t believe it.

The story was focusing on the town of Bristol, RI and its famous 4th of July celebrations. But the reason the irony hit me so strongly was that Bristol, RI also plays a starring role in a wonderful documentary that we used this past year in the Race, Church and Change film series -- Traces of the Trade. The film traces -- quite literally -- the roots of one Episcopal seminarian's family through the slave trade in the North. The DeWolfe family, of which the filmmaker is a descendent, was the largest slave trading family in North America, and contributed most of the wealth that built up Bristol, RI. Indeed, part of what was so fascinating to me about the film was the way it traced the extent to which the entire town was implicated in the slave trade.

So it is ironic indeed that an entire cover story article could be devoted to that town's patriotism, without once mentioning its history. I know I'm strange this way, but I actually would have respected the claim of patriotism if the article had demonstrated that the town had confronted its history.