Join the national shouting match … or these conversations …

Guide to David and Benjamin Crumm American Journey Series
40 Days and 9,000 Miles with a father and son

We called our 40 days and 9,000 miles a “national conversation” for a reason: While a new nationwide survey shows 9 out of 10 Americans are proud of this thing we call “America,” 99 percent of us also are anxious about the future. As we approach the anniversary of “9/11” this year, that rising tide of anxiety is spilling out in our national shouting match over Ground Zero—and in our explosive approach to politics.

As an antidote to the anxiety and the anger, we invite you to take a moment and remember all the inspiration we found in our 9,000-mile “national conversation.”

Eating our values one bite of whitefish at a time” ranks as one of the most-read stories in the entire series. Father and son, David and Benjamin Crumm, visited a VFW hall in northern Michigan for a community-wide whitefish dinner. In that Saulte Ste. Marie crowd, a few pointed questions about religion or politics could have touched off a shouting match. Instead, people gathered to enjoy a terrific dinner, to support a local nonprofit organization and to share a pleasant evening with family, friends and neighbors. That glimpse of a diverse community enjoying a peaceful evening together drew a huge number of readers. Sounds like a refreshing ideal in these contentious times, doesn’t it? In 40 days of travel, we found that Saulte Ste. Marie isn’t alone as an oasis of civil society.

Poet Rafael Gonzalez also drew record numbers of readers in the groundbreaking ReadTheSpirit/Detroit Free Press co-publication of this series. Gonzalez also prompted lots of readers to email us, agreeing with the rather startling ideas he expresses in this interview. The tone of the Gonzalez story is quite different than what we found at the VFW hall—or is it? Tell us what you think.

The Los Angeles “dog church” also was a big hit with readers nationwide. This Presbyterian church is expanding the whole idea of community to include animals as well as humans.

If you’re worried by America’s diversity at 2010, take another look at the story we reported from the Museum of California about the produce—literally the produce—that resulted from our diversity as a nation more than 100 years ago.

If you think the power and creativity of our immigrant heritage is all in the past, then you somehow missed our story from New Orleans about the Vietnamese-American Catholics surviving every crises the world could manage to throw at them. Moreover, they’re doing it with enormous good will and faith in the future.

Newcomers aren’t the only Americans with this kind of inspiring perseverence. Here’s the first of three stories we reported from tiny Tangier Island in Chesapeake Bay. These American families have lived on Tangier for several centuries already and they are absolutely determined to survive through this new century, too! Many readers emailed us to thank us for this trilogy of Tangier stories.

Finally, if you’re still feeling worried about our future, revisit this interview with singer-songwriter Fran McKendree and, at the end of the story, listen to his amazing rendition of the classic, “The Storm Is Passing Over.” If that doesn’t refresh you spiritually, well … you don’t have your computer speakers turned up high enough!

We want this “national conversation” to continue

As Americans, we have no choice: Conversation is far better than the dangerous shouting matches we’ve been witnessing in recent weeks. So, please, email us at [email protected] and tell us what you think of these stories, what you think should be done to ease the tensions around this particular “9/11” anniversary—and tell us how we can keep this conversation going.

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