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4 July 2017

For us, as perhaps for you, Photo Corners is an escape from the headlines of the day. It's a place where beauty is celebrated and chased with wild abandon, where good humor reigns and a generous spirit infects everything we do.

Red, White & Blue. And the inevitable green. San Francisco, 2008. Fujifilm FinePix S100FS at f5, 1/350s and ISO 200.

But the pictures we take are of the world. The world that is source of all those headlines.

Admittedly, the world we cover here is smaller than the one the headlines of the day cover. But still, we're a member of the working press. Our perspective is that of you, our reader, not the the companies that would like you as a client.

But our world is big enough to celebrate the work of photojournalists and mourn their passing. They are part of that corps covering the larger world that keeps you free to know what's going on and protects you from the manipulators who would pervert your understanding.

There really is, after all, no escape from the headlines of the day.

Today's headlines will no doubt observe that we are busy celebrating the founding of the United States of America. History isn't as tidy as the story, with the vote for independence actually being passed by the Second Continental Congress on July 2 and the Declaration of Independence not finally signed by everyone until Aug. 2.

But the notion of a united nation doesn't reflect reality either. Not even in 1776.

In his book American Nations, Colin Woodard observes:

The military struggle of 1775-1782 wasn't fought by an "American people" seeking to create a united, continent-spanning republic where all men were created equal and guaranteed freedom of speech, religion and the press. On the contrary, it was a profoundly conservative action fought by a loose military alliance of nations, each of which was most concerned with preserving or reasserting control of its respective culture, character and power structure. The rebellious nations certainly didn't want to be bonded together into a single republic.

That reality of a divided nation still describes the country today as various political factions seem to be speaking in tongues rather than English.

How can the richest nation on earth come within a handful of votes of depriving over 20 million of their neighbors something as basic as health care?

How can a man in the most powerful seat in that nation's government fritter away his time watching television broadcasts about himself and rebutting them in childish tweets while remaining detached from the debate about the pressing issues of the day and the legislation meant to address them?

How can the people who voted for that man be unconcerned that they were intentionally misled by a foreign and hostile government?

How can so many Americans be so poorly informed that they don't know who represents them in Congress or what position those representatives hold on issues as personal as their own health care and as important as the environment?

Those have become more unfathomable mysteries than answerable questions today. And their unfathomable depths make this Independence Day a very sad one.

We were perhaps, as Woodard suggests, always a nation of protest signs and bumper stickers. Congenitally unwilling to cooperate. Our interests not just diverse but contradictory.

But maybe it's time we take a cue from the press and, instead of blurting out bumper stickers at picnics and parties, start asking each other questions -- and listen for the answers.

We're going to try that today.

Then maybe the richest nation on earth can become a place where beauty is celebrated and chased with wild abandon, where good humor reigns and a generous spirit infects everything we do.

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