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Opinion

American culture becomes more understandable in person

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September 17, 2015

This summer, my family and I decided to take an old fashion road trip. The type of trip where you load up the car, buckle up, and drive 26 hours cross country, just to get some “family time.”

At the request of my dad, we decided to make the trip to Texas.

None of us had ever been there and it was time us Northerners

explored a little bit of the south. At first, I was a little apprehensive. How much fun could an extended car ride to one of the hottest parts of the country in the middle of July be? I could not have been more wrong. Although I did in fact have a lot of fun, it was what I experienced and learned that will always stick with me.

As the designated trip planner in my family, I made an itinerary full of roadside landmarks that would help break up the trip. These landmarks, however, provided much more than a quick stretch of the legs and a bathroom break. They provided a unique perspective on what it means to be an American. The first significant stop was Laugh-0-Gram studios in Kansas City, the birthplace of the Disney Corporation. In all honesty, the building wasn’t much to look at. The outside was covered with faded pictures of Walt Disney and early sketches of Mickey Mouse, while the inside was closed to the public. But here stood the foundation to what would become one of the icons of American imagination, innocence and, of course, money. What surrounded the building though, gave a prospective all its own. The building was located deep into one of Kansas City’s poorest neighborhoods. Many houses were condemned while others stood in ruin. The American wealth gap had never been more prevalent.

As we continued on this trip, we stopped at the site of the Brown Vs. The Board Of Education in Topeka, Kansas. The landmark school has become a symbol of social justice and racial reform. Only a few hours south lay a juxtaposing scene: the Oklahoma City bombing memorial, which has become a symbol for the new era that we live in. The bombing of the government building ushered in a new world of heighten security, terrorism threats, and a new fear in the American way of life. The difference in these two landmarks illustrate how far we’ve come in America and just how far we have left to go. Throughout the rest of the trip, examples of this continued to show up from the solemn site of the assassination of John F. Kennedy to the modern marvel of the AT&T Stadium.

It is easy to get lost in the mess that is the history of the United States. The things you learned in high school history can take no meaning if the perspective isn’t present. Sometimes it takes 4,000 miles in a car to realize what our countries history really means. Many believe that this is the greatest country on Earth because of our vast number of accomplishments but if you look a little closer, the country appears as a pretty face with plenty of blemishes.

Matthew Clark is a junior journalism student. Besides being the music director at WRFW and the circulation manager at the Student Voice, Clark has become an accomplished musician, performing with the likes of Chicago and Daughtry. He has also contributed to a few movie soundtracks.