by Wendie Hansen with Kaleel Sakakeeny

Ralph Waldo Emerson had this to say about the Old North Bridge in Concord, MA, a suburb of Boston:

“By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.”

But what does the bridge in Concord,  the home of the American revolution for independence, have to do with revolutions in Tahrir Square, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and all places where the struggle for freedom is  a painful and passionate one?

For me, this visit  was a  pilgrimage of sorts.  Here was where one of the first battles of the American Revolution took place on April 19th, 1775. 

I wanted to reclaim something here. The patriotic pulse of a childhood growing up near this iconic place had gone resoundingly flat in the sixties. So I wanted to see if returning to Concord I might feel a flutter that would connect me to brothers and sisters in the world  also seeking freedom from tyranny, for others, like my ancestors, fighting and dying for a freedom we have long taken for granted.

I asked a woman with a camera what brought her to Concord, to the Old North Bridge, now a famous tourist destination, but deserted in the arctic winter.

“I’ve never been, and I happened to be I thought might as well..." "but" I ventured "does it make you feel anything about what's happening elsewhere in the  world?"

Her stare was blank at first, then "oh, I see what you mean, like Egypt, places like that?”

Then I was alone with the rude bridge until across the stream, a man and child approached.

He was from Ghana, and we stood together with the first dead Isaac Davis and Emerson's poem.

“By the Rude bridge that arched the flood
Their flag to Aprils breeze unfurled…”

I with my Mayflower eyes, he with deep brown- eyed disappointment. "What has happened to this country?" the African voice said " you fought so hard against tyranny... what do you value now.”

And I was alone again, with his question, which had been mine, which is why I come here, and why I think others do, too.

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