July 5th: What's On Today's Show : Blog Of The Nation In the first hour of Talk of the Nation, creating a better Congress, and the challenges of constructing a modern family tree. In the second hour, how identities affect our lives, and re-defining the purpose of the U.S. military.
NPR logo July 5th: What's On Today's Show

July 5th: What's On Today's Show

Fireworks explode in the sky above the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol as the nation celebrates its 229th birthday July 4, 2005 in Washington, DC Alex Wong/Getty Images hide caption

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Creating A Better Congress
The Senate is back at work today, after canceling its traditional week-long recess for the July 4th holiday in the hope of reaching a deal on government spending and raising the debt ceiling. Many Americans are frustrated at the lack of progress, and blame both parties for gridlock and politics as usual in Washington. Guest host Brian Naylor talks with former members of Congress about what they think is wrong with the institution and how to make it function better.

Family Trees Grow Complicated
The traditional family tree has grown much more complicated in recent years. With increases in unmarried couples, same-sex couples, surrogates, and sperm donors, The New York Times reports that many families now organize two family trees — one genetic and one emotional. And some schools are now skipping the traditional classroom project altogether. Guest host Brian Naylor talks about the new challenges families face when constructing a family tree.

Who Are We?
Gary Younge writes that identity itself is harmless, but the ways people choose to use it can be harmful, if not dangerous. Women often cooed at the site of him carrying his infant son around Brooklyn — some even congratulated him, not on the birth of a child, but on being a responsible black father. He shares another story in his book of an elderly white woman who wants to play with his child in an airport. His internal reaction: Wait 15 years and you'll probably be afraid of him. In his new book, Who Are We — And Should it Matter in the 21st Century, Gary Younge explores the ways people identify one another and how those identities affect our lives.

A Military Without 'Clear Purpose'
The purpose of the military has become unclear, argues Bruce Fleming, a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy. People join the military for all sorts of reasons — to pay for college, to serve and defend their country, to maintain a family legacy, among others. In a piece in The Christian Science Monitor, Fleming asks, "How can we encourage our young people to go into it nowadays if we don't have any idea what it is or what it does?" He argues that we need a new definition of the military, one that acknowledges that national defense is not always the main reason for serving and that also instills those who serve with the honor and pride of previous generations. Guest host Brian Naylor talks with Fleming about his op-ed and redefining the purpose of the U.S. military.