Billy Penn is a bruiser. He stands 37 feet tall and weighs 27 tons. The days when the brim of the hat was by handshake agreement the highest thing in the city ended 30 years ago, but this bronze simulacrum of Philadelphia’s founder still cuts an imposing figure, peeking out between buildings wherever you go in Center City. Earlier this year, he was washed and buffed from top to toe. Even the solid symbols of our ideals need to be spruced up a bit from time to time.
And the thing is, the City of Brotherly Love was always more of an ideal than a reality. Penn’s “holy experiment,” the colony of Pennsylvania, has always been a work in progress. It must be so because, as they say, we are only human. We put a cross atop our steeple, but it doesn’t mean the church is perfect. The only statement it makes is that this is our ideal, the standard we aim for and try to live ever closer to, knowing it must always be a little out of reach. To say out loud that we’ve fallen short is a actually mark of commitment to the process.
I love being part of these grand experiments. I love my country because of what it stands for. I love living in a place that was founded as an experiment in tolerance. We need to take care in what we lift up, and courageously, honestly commit to bringing these ideals to life