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  • Writer's pictureRiver Valley Student Editorial Club

“The Land of French Fries and Bald Eagles”: Bicultural US Trip (Part 1)

“The Land of French Fries and Bald Eagles”: Bicultural US Trip (Part 1)

Written by: New Ke Yue 23J14


Amidst the bustling streets and towering skylines of the United States, a country famously described by former English Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as 'a product of philosophy,' my fellow Bicultural Studies Scholars and I embarked on an intriguing journey in the land of french fries and bald eagles. This trip was more than just a tour; it was an immersion into a nation shaped by its unique political, economic, social, and cultural tapestry, making it the global superpower we know today. 

Let’s go! 

 Top (left to right): Liu Tianjian, Joshua Tan Seng Hong, Derrick Loh Zixun Bottom (left to right): Zheng Shuyue, Alicia Lim Kye Le, Ho En Tong 


E pluribus unum (Latin for ‘Amongst many, one’). So goes the famous American motto that we are constantly reminded of during our tour through the Capitol Building (yes, the one that Donald Trump led a protest into) and the ethereally gorgeous Library of Congress. 

The US Capitol Building

The Latin saying is a great encapsulation of the work done in the Capitol; it is where the Senate and the House of Representatives come together to engage in political discourse and craft policies. To ensure fair representation, there are exactly 2 senators from each of the 50 US states. 

Though we had an animated tour guide to walk us through the buildings, the vibrant paintings adorning the walls and ceilings of the Capitol (painted by John Trumbull and Constantino Brumidi respectively) were vivid storytellers too.

A series of paintings depicting America’s founding stories  

Each of the 13 ladies featured in the dome Rotunda of the building represents the first 13 states that the US had. Spot the “E Pluribus Unum” sign they’re holding here!

The Rotunda of the Capitol building

Then there was the Library of Congress, a dreamy chamber boasting a remarkable combination of white marble and rose gold, both equally intricate in terms of the art etched into them.  

But beauty is far from the only thing the Library has to offer; it's a treasure trove of both history and knowledge. Founded in 1800, it is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, serving as the research arm of Congress, containing over 800 000 rare books. The Library further serves as a mini museum, with an exhibition room on its top floor hosting various exhibits from time to time. 

It has also witnessed its fair share of tragedies, having been set on fire by British troops during the War of 1812 and rebuilt afterwards. Unfortunately, many rare books were unable to be recovered from the irreversible damage, leaving holes in American history that researchers today are relentlessly trying to patch. 

Collection of Books in the Library of Congress

We also got a taste of political diplomacy. In New York, we managed to visit the United Nations building, where we got to witness an actual council session take place and Singapore’s Permanent Mission to the UN, where we met some Singaporean MFA members.

At the United Nations building in New York

Last but not least, there was the Arlington National Cemetery, nestled in Washington. Perhaps it was the regal atmosphere that came with being the resting place for the nation’s most distinguished military personnel and political individuals, but the quaint, 639-acre plot of land felt very different from what one would normally expect from a graveyard. It was tranquillity, not trepidation, that characterised the place, and I could easily imagine locals taking a stroll here every now or then, pondering the stories behind every headstone. 

Arlington Cemetery 

Here, we visited the tombs of President John F. Kennedy and watched a “Changing of the guard” ritual. As it turns out, the National Cemetery is one of the most careful burial sites in the world, with guards present 24/7. Unlike the traditional perceptions we had of grave-taking jobs, protecting the Arlington National Cemetery is a prestigious role as most soldiers have to pass extremely mentally and physically gruelling challenges to be offered the task. 

All in all, the pride in its political system and ideals is crystal clear in the enthusiasm of the tour guides, the efforts in maintaining these buildings and the stories that locals tell their children all around. 

And finally, there was the United States 9/11 Memorial & Museum. It was one of the first places we visited in New York, and was undoubtedly a heavy start to the morning. The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre were politically motivated and ended in a whiplash of

American political changes (such as kickstarting its War on Terror). Its seismic impacts on the American people have traversed all aspects. 

The museum showcased this perfectly, in its preservation of the victims’ legacies and the portrayal of their individuality. While the museum took various steps to do this, from getting oral history from victim’s families and honouring them with roses on their birthday each year, my personal favourite is the exhibition: “2983 shades of blue”. 

 2983 shades of blue 

Each piece of paper is a different shade of blue and arranged in a unique way such that no two pieces of paper are alike, just like how none of the victims of the 9/11 attacks are exactly identical. Like Stalin said,  “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic.” In times of massive tragedies, we tend to view the victims they claim as a homogenous, unfortunate entity. This wall is a poignant reminder that there is a person behind every number on the fatality list.

The museum also pays great attention to detail. From scorched car doors to mangled elevator wiring, the relics of the Twin Towers have been retouched to create an accurate depiction of various parts of the venue during the day of the incident. 

Building the 700 million dollar museum that has grown to be a staple for New York’s tourists over the years also serves as a symbol to the rest of the world; that the US is taking control of something out of its control, and making it their own. Which, all in all, is a pretty powerful political message. 

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