My feelings are strong, and mixed, and I’ve yet to fully process the significance of a Trump presidency and the impact it’ll have on me, my friends, my family, and my kids.
But no matter how long my mind whirs and spits out warnings and error messages, it doesn’t change the fact that tomorrow the 45th President of the United States will take office–and whether we love him, hate him, or ignore him, that fact cannot be changed.
I think I’ve been seeing fireworks on the Fourth of the July for as long as I’ve been alive–that’s 26 years. Like most children, they startled me when I was younger, but I’ve come to love the dancing lights and the thrashing thunder that follows every burst. As I watched the fireworks this year, behind a hotel in Cookeville, Tennessee, on my way home from my brother’s wedding in Texas, I began thinking of the daily freedoms I have because I’m a U.S. citizen: I can travel freely almost anywhere in the world, I can go to school and get a job doing anything I want, and for the past week and onward, I can marry anyone I please and have our marriage recognized throughout the entire country.
I did not vote for you, but since you are now my senator, you are obliged not only to listen to me but to represent me. It would be easy to dismiss me because you won this race without my vote, so I would like to take a moment to remind you that you did not gain election through a majority, but merely a plurality. Indeed, because of this, please realize–and consider this deeply–that you now represent more than half of North Carolina who did not vote for you. Therefore, I would like to share with you where I stand on many of the issues I believe will be important during the next six years in which you are in office.
Today’s Independence Day. To celebrate our freedom, I’ve been planning to write a piece about self-determination, celebrating the power we each hold as individuals in the United States and encouraging people to embrace this power–to take charge of their lives, and more importantly, to take charge of their country.
But self-determination is a privilege of the modern world, and the freedom we have today came at cost far greater than any one of us could ever imagine–certainly far greater than even I could conceive.
We hear stories of privilege and think of old white men in suits sipping on drinks at the bar in their kitchen–but it looks like a real bar, it’s just that big. We think of privilege and we think of CEOs and politicians, those the media has deemed corrupt–might as well toss in a few celebrities, just for for kicks. We say the word privilege and the first thing inevitably to cross our minds is this three-word phrase.
With Independence Day right around the corner, I feel compelled to continue my tradition of celebratory posts, but the summer months also represent the dip in the metaphorical sine wave of my life and as such, I haven’t felt inspired much. A dismal forecast only compounds this interest into something darker, brooding, wet.
Yet as I sit here, plucking words from turbid air, outside my window, past the Cartesian coordinates of the screen, through the humid and disparaging air, I see a verdant field pockmarked with shadows of hunter green, the rust-colored brick buildings opposite ours, dense trees on the horizon yet another shade of green, and above them, stretching toward the ends of the earth itself, the azure skies with snow-white clouds tied in bows all about it.
We all know the saying that we are each greater than the sum of our parts, but I like to expand this by saying I am greater than the product of the factors in my life. It’s funny because of the mathematical parallelism between sums and products, but it also changes the focus from the internal to the external.
When I think of the parts that make me up, I think of the roles I fill and the things I am. I’m a writer, a brother, a friend, a leader. I was homeschooled, graduated from a community college, and now I’m attending an awesome university. But when taken together, I am greater than any one of these things.
When I think of the factors that have brought me here, I think of the outside forces that have shaped me: My parents are divorced, I’ve grown up depending on government assistance, and I’ve only been able to make it through school because of the challenges I’ve overcome. Yet I am greater than each of these things, and I am greater than merely taking them all together.
It’s hard to say which came first–the outside challenges or the changes inside–but all of these elements have brought me here and made me who I am, and because of the extraordinary opportunities I’ve been given, I’ve finally realized where I want to go in life.
As a child I detested it. Now as an adult I have come to appreciate it. I may still at times despise it, but I succumb to it nonetheless. In this word there is synthesis. Togetherness. Means and ideals.
I can’t recall any memories of importance, but I can imagine some long lost day in the second or third grade when, before Hebrew school began, my friends and I would ride the wagon down the hill behind our synagogue. Sometimes I didn’t like going down the hill. Sometimes I would much rather sit and talk on the swings.
Sometimes we did both.
At six or seven we could see that both was better.
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.