I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the eclipse. As infrequent as these things may be, a briefly, slightly darker version of the world for a short period of time did not strike me as warranting the hype.
In stark contrast to my cynicism, Elysha hosted an eclipse party. Four other families brought their children over to watch the eclipse. Over the course of two hours, Elysha taught eight children to make eclipse viewers out of cereal boxes and decorate eclipse-themed cupcakes. Then she brought everyone outside to view the eclipse with actual eclipse glasses (which she somehow managed to acquire that morning), as well as their surprisingly effective homemade eclipse viewers.
There was food, drink, and fun. I swear that she threw the whole thing together in about four minutes.
The eclipse itself was underwhelming. The quality of the light shifted for about 30 minutes. I watched the moon pass in front of the sun.
Still, the world got a little darker for a little bit of time. That was it.
But here is what I loved:
Americans came together around a single, non-tragic event.
Our culture is rarely as ubiquitous as it was when I was young. No longer are Americans gathering around the television by the tens of millions to watch the final episode of M*A*S*H or the latest episode of Seinfeld. Movies like Star Wars, Titanic, and ET: The Extraterrestrial do not draw wholesale segments of America any longer. Radio is rapidly diminishing, making it harder for a song to gain cultural purchase.
Our culture is becoming fragmented and fractured as personal choice, facilitated by the digital age, allows Americans to curate their own content with remarkable ease.
This isn't all bad. Voices that were once stifled in a three network television system, a music industry full of gatekeepers, and a film industry that required millions of dollar to produce a movie can now be heard. Television content is better than it's ever been. Music is more diverse than ever before. Services like YouTube have allowed talented, creative, hard working people to circumvent the gatekeepers of the past and reach millions of viewers.
But we have so little that brings America together absent tragedy or divisiveness.
The Super Bowl
Holidays like Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July
The occasional viral video
The Ice Bucket Challenge
The Woman's March, to a degree, brought vast segments of Americans together, but even that was not without protest. Similarly, Saturday Night Live is a cultural touchstone, but based upon their recent political material, not everyone would agree.
Yesterday's eclipse brought the country together for a moment of unity. The vast majority of Americans were looking at the same thing at the same time, absent politics, religion, or tragedy.
That was good.
I thought the eclipse was fairly underwhelming. I wish it happened more often.