America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.
Alexis de Tocqueville
It’s hard to say precisely the moment when America ceased being good. Some might even say she never was good–at least not wholly. Our country was built upon interracial warfare and slavery–against American natives, Africans, even the white poor.
To say any of that was ever good is shortsighted and misleading.
And yet, one can’t help but argue that America has always been great: a bastion of freedom, a new exploration of democracy on a scale that hadn’t been seen before, a righteous (but not self-righteous) country whose faith lay not in ethereal deities or divine mandates but upon the collective goodness of the people themselves. Yes, America hasn’t always met these ideals (if ever she has), but striving toward ideals is itself a a constant struggle and a constant celebration of the small victories along the way.
Yet now, amid political corruption and mass shootings, what victories remain?
Today officially began my semester. I woke up before the sun (but not as early as yesterday) and trudged out to my first course. I left earlier than I actually had to and therefore was almost an hour early.
I took my seat casually, somewhat thankful I wasn’t the first one there. I withdrew my iPad to fiddle with for a bit, eager to distract myself, yet still eager for classes to begin.
Had I known what the day would bring, I’d have felt differently.
I knew it was raining when my class was interrupted by the squeaking from the hallway. By the time I left the building to cross a small breadth of campus to my second course, it was merely a light rain, and when after that course I crossed to the bus stop, the light rain hadn’t picked up a great deal–but on account of now standing in the rain, by nature it seemed heavier.
I got on the bus, the standing crowd moving slowly toward the back to make room for the new recruits at the front.
So elections were yesterday and despite distractions galore, I still managed to reach my daily word count goal for NaNoWriMo. Through antihistamines and philosophers, economic speakers and communication workshops, I thought the day would end on a solemn note. And when I saw some of the election results, certainly it seemed solidly solemn enough, but somehow there is clarity in these wins and losses–clarity that my vote didn’t count.
But don’t mistake me for apathy. There’s more to it than that.
Lately I’ve been watching controversial documentaries. I love documentaries. It’s like a miniature lesson on all sorts of topics in a living room turned classroom for ninety minutes. The perspectives, the visuals, the ideas. I ingest them like ice cream, each flavor delicious in its own way, but even better with toppings.
Lately I’ve been watching controversial political documentaries. I like politics. So much I’m adding a minor in political science. So much I’ve considered running for office or working in government at some point. I’ve aspired to teach to change the world, but hey, I’ll say, maybe I can make a bigger difference somewhere else.
In one such documentary, someone commented with distaste how, after 9/11, President Bush told the people to go shopping. Although it seems this statement actually originated from media commentary on his speeches (and therefore, is more likely rumor than fact), when I heard this, I shut my eyes, ruffled my brow, and shook my head. Such a stupid thing to say! I thought, and thinking further, I wondered
Did you know today was Flag Day in the United States?
I did, but I really didn’t care. So what, it’s Flag Day? Just another day with a name, it didn’t phase me or make me think of anything special. I slept in late and exercised when I woke up. I played on the Wii and my iPad. I replied to some comments, transcribed some calculus notes, and went shopping. It was just another day. Who cared it was Flag Day?
That’s what I thought, at least, until I saw the news a while ago. They spoke a little bit about the flag and showed a class of immigrants talking about becoming citizens and what the flag means to them. It gave me a new perspective on the oft-ignored holiday and left me feeling thankful for our flag.
It’s been a while since I wrote Maximum Occupancy Approaching. I was hesitant to post it before I got my grade back in case I had miswritten or misrepresented anything in composing the piece. I appreciate facts. I want to make sure I’ve got all of mine in order before I say anything. This is simple in op-eds and fiction. Not so simple in journalism. It’s why I want to be a novelist not a newspaper headliner.
Occupy is still around. It’s still as relevant today as it was then–and perhaps even more so because it’s still there and it’s spread further still. Their position has gotten clearer although their leadership remains sparse, and news reports abound with both the good and the bad. I remember the morning after I submitted my paper I saw a clip on the news about the protests at Wall Street: Not only did they have free yoga classes in the middle of the park, they had a library composed of hundreds of books that Occupants had brought by. There were groups to go around collecting trash and recyclables and there was a breakfast served for everyone there.
I am writing to you in concern of the upcoming Special Session on Monday, September 12, 2011, to vote on Senate Bill 106 and House Bill 777, both entitled Defense of Marriage, which seek to amend our state constitution so that marriages between one man and one woman are the only legally recognized domestic relationship in North Carolina.
It is my belief, however, that these bills should not be passed.
For me it started early. Back in ’99, Pokemon was all the rage, and you had just two choices: Red or Blue. Even before then, on Nickelodeon game shows like Double Dare and all the others, and also on other hit shows like American Gladiators, everyone was divided into one of two teams: Red or Blue. Then subconsciously, every four years, when great athletes like George W. Bush and Al Gore, or Bush and Kerry, or Barack Obama and John McCain, raced to the finish to strike with the gold, I watched in childish wonder as one by one, the fifty States were painted on TV, Red or Blue.