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?
I have a confession: I am bound in chains and sometimes I like it. My flesh is tethered by bands of leather and holy boxes inscribed with the word of God. The numbness under the straps speaks to me of security, reminds me of an invisible, all powerful touch.
The truth is metaphor’s a nasty animal that rears its head and paws at the dirt and runs off chasing wild game the moment you think it’s majesty might actually be your own.
But the bigger truth is this: Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom, about what it means to be free, about liberation, and all the chains we carry.
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.
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.
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.
Today began early voting in North Carolina. I’ll be voting on Monday, but that’s besides the point: What matter today is that you can now take your voice and make it heard–locally and nationally.
I’ve been debating a long time with myself if I want to “go political” or not. It’s a part of me, and I can’t deny that, and it’s certainly been a part of this blog–none of us can deny that. However, I’ve worried about alienating readers, offending people or making erroneous claims that will hurt me in the end.
I’ve decided today that all of that? It’s stupid. It’s our obligation–yours as much as mine–to “go political,” and given the start of early voting, there’s no better time than now to do it.
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.
Cultural Differences in the United States and Israel
This past summer I spent six week studying abroad in Israel. Although I had not foreseen this assignment then, three weeks of Sociology classes have given me the ability to look back upon my conversations in Israel and evaluate them not merely in the context of students and counselors but also in the context of people from different cultures meeting for the first time. Early in my trip it was hard to distinguish different cultures on the campus where I stayed, surrounded mostly by other Americans in my predominantly Jewish group, but as the program went on and I interacted with more Israelis and observed their customs, I came to discover many viewpoints commonly held by Israelis that are not as commonly held by Americans.
This was one of the first essays I had to write for my my first semester in college. Therefore, I find it’s only fitting that it’s the first essay I post here. The topics of my essays vary widely, from personal to political to special interest and beyond, but I’m sure there’ll be something that’ll interest almost anyone in most of my essays. This first one happens to center around sports and patriotism/nationalism.
The Other Olympics
The stands are packed with waiting fans, men and women forced to the edges of their seats poised with cameras and waving flags in their hands. People from seventy countries have converged for the start of a sporting event that occurs only once every four years. The athletes will come to the field, the President and Prime Minister will speak, the torch will be lit, and the games will begin.
Not in Turin, Italy. Not in Beijing, China. But in Ramat Gan, Israel.