It’s time to put aside our differences and work together to get things done.
I open my eyes and see sunlight, a gentle breeze stirring the branches of the trees and the light ripple of the bay in my ears. I go about my day at school, outwardly focused, but somewhere else within. Leaving the building and jogging across the field, the baseball team suits up, getting ready for the game—our home opener of the 2009 season. I get a hit, make some plays, but it doesn’t matter: my mind lies elsewhere. The game ends and I rush to the car. We get to the airport with time to spare, our posters and flags waving the warm evening sun. Slowly but surely they came, and just as slowly the clapping starts. Soft, but growing to a roar, complete strangers paying their respects to our heroes as they walk towards the waiting families. The hugs, the tears all blend together. Dad was home. After eight long months, we were whole.
What if I told you, those moments are mere memories? That the love and appreciation for those who sacrifice everything for us is gone. That the United States of America has lost what was once its greatest natural resource: the pride of its citizens. I yearn for the days when expressing one’s love for their country was done openly. When expressing support for our troops was done with sincerity and love on behalf of a grateful nation, not cynicism from a generation that feels above it all. That embracing our rights and freedoms as Americans made someone an example to follow, rather than a pariah. “I’m Proud to Be an American,” used to elicit smiles. Now, if you’re lucky, you’ll only be scoffed at.
What has happened to us, our home and our people, is a concentrated effort by each and every one of us to divide our nation and shake it to its very core in the name of self-interest. We turned our backs on one another, eviscerated any opposing views, and stopped reaching for the stars. We abandoned responsibility and honor to find someone, anyone to be the scapegoat for our problems. Our children are taught entitlement from birth, that hard work and perseverance are decided by “The System,” and prosperity is a preordained product of a stacked deck. The age-old doctrine of success that allowed this great nation to rise up, the idea that your merits, your dreams, make you who you are is gone; and a nation of complacency and handouts has replaced it.
When the United States was threatened in the days of old, our superpower survived by the sweat of its citizen’s brows, and an incomparable resolve in our pursuit of excellence. That is what made America the greatest country in the world, the most powerful juggernaut the world has ever seen. We don’t see that anymore. Nobody stands up for what’s right, we stand up for what’s trending on Twitter, and what sounds sexy during coffee house gossip. In a country that once valued freedom so much, I challenge each and every one of us to consider: why then does anyone who expresses their thoughts find not rational discussion, but an angry mob seeking to destroy you, your future, your freedom?
We hear “Make America Great Again” and think of the fiasco of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. But the first step to making America great again is to embrace our neighbors, our fellow citizens. From the Oval Office down to the poorest of the poor we identify ourselves as white, black, liberal, conservative. But this is our home, our land, and our people. It’s about time we remembered that. The time has come to put aside our differences, let go of the past, and understand that for this country, our country, to rise again, we need to cultivate the cooperation necessary to get things done. Identify ourselves as we really are: Americans. We’ve lost our way in the dark blanket of the night. Time to find it again.
Previously published on Verge Campus