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Friday, July 7, 2017


Mary Ann Mort

The celebration of this country’s independence day allowed me to ponder the differences between nationalism and patriotism.


As the last bits of the sun’s rays drained from the sky, the air seemed to lift off my shoulders while the cement step I sat on kept me warm. Music carried across a sea of red, white, and blue as humans filled with the spirit of the music; they sporadically began dancing, or at least shifting shoulders. Suddenly, my bones seemed to reverberate momentarily and the Washington Monument flashed out along the dark horizon as the spirits representing our country’s independence escaped into the sky. Awe and wonder spread across the faces in the crowd, and it was 18 minutes of great contemplation and appreciation for the freedoms this country endows upon its people inspired by those who fought for an individual’s right for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I thought of George Orwell’s essay, Notes on Nationalism, where he discusses the differences between nationalism and patriotism (see below for an excerpt), and how both involve devotion to one’s country, but one takes it too far. It’s food for thought.

The four day weekend was filled to the brim with fun activities. On Saturday, some of us interns hiked up to Rock Creek Park to find the sandstone and marble blocks that have been there since the U.S. Capitol renovation in the early 1960s. This did not “ruin” the weekend however. On Sunday, we ventured down to Old Town Alexandria, and started off with a meal at Bilbo Baggins Global Restaurant (it was themed Lord of the Rings!). After walking around the cutesy streets, we went to the Torpedo Factory Art Center and encountered some brilliantly geometrical art. We met the artist -- he reminded me of John Forbes Nash Jr., who inspired A Beautiful Mind.

The Fourth of July was the perfect All-American day. From viewing the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, to dressing up as if I time traveled to colonial times with some of the interns and my friend, Henry Dotson, to a block party with plenty of barbecue and tacos, to viewing the Capitol concert and fireworks from the special access steps of the Capitol, it was all-in-all the best Independence Day I’ve had yet.

I had a chance to meet others interested in science policy at a Science Policy Happy Hour event hosted by AAAS(American Association for the Advancement of Science). Several people gave me their card or added me on LinkedIn, and one even knew some physics entrepreneurs. Hopefully he will connect me with them so I can interview them to write more profiles for the APS website.

The rest of my week I spent listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks and making progress on my next mirror etching. My mirrors are typically gifts, so once they are given away, I’ll reveal them. Let’s just say this one is very intricate and probably one I’m most excited for.


George Orwell in his essay, Notes on Nationalism: "By 'nationalism' I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled 'good' or 'bad'. But secondly--and this is much more important--I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests. Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. By 'patriotism' I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality."


Some art from the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria.
The ruins of the old Capitol building in Rock Creek Park.
I signed the Declaration of Independence!
Colonial time-travelers: Jacob Robertson, me, Francisco Rodriguez, Lisa McDonald, and Henry Dotson.
Fireworks on July 4th from the steps of the Capitol with the silhouette of the Washington Memorial.
Purple bell peppers I got from a farmers' market near the Foggy Bottom metro station.
The entrance to Rocket Bar, where the Science Policy Happy Hour was held.

Mary Ann Mort