Monday, July 1, 2013

150 Years Later

Friends, Americans, Countrymen,

Today makes the 150th anniversary of the first day of conflict at Gettysburg, possibly the most pivotal battle in our nation's history, I'd like to take a lesson from the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and reflect on our past, present, and future. Similar to a Christmas Carol, there are ghosts that our nation must confront; by doing so, we can gain a clear, hindsight perspective on situations and events that majority of Americans were once unaware of. Before I begin, I must clarify that  I do not intend to make sweeping generalizations about the topics and groups mentioned. Rather, I am speaking to threads that represent majority and minority alike. Nor do I intend to discuss this nation's history through a wonderful lens that hides some of the unfortunate realities we have created. My intentions are to show my readers how I've grown to view our nation, past and present, so that we may remove our distractive blinders and consider our future.  

For any great civilization that wishes to preserve its prosperity it is essential to actively study its history; the hard fought lessons that were once bitterly learned retain a degree of relevance that cannot be ignored. A civilization is the living embodiment of its people; they, citizens and senators alike, constitute society and form government, establishing a social bond that binds men, women, and fellow human beings to a common identity. An analysis of the past forces members of that society to acknowledge the current state of affairs and turn upon their nation with introspective scrutiny that seeks to rectify wrong, both apparent and covert, and heal wounds caused by apathy, detachment from the past, and willfully accepted malevolence. Once the past is remembered and the present is thoroughly examined, it is of extreme importance for the people to direct their gaze upon the future with the courage to sound their voices, express their opinions, and take hold of the direction in which they are headed by casting off the shackles of ignorance. It is crucial that we, the people, do what is decidedly in the best interests of the people, not in the interests of those who rule through fear and manipulation, readily supplying misinformation to turn brother upon brother with hopes of distracting the masses from their deceitful plots and machinations.

Back to Gettysburg for a moment - from July 1st to 3rd, the fields, ridges and streets of a small town in Pennsylvania were set alight by the flames of war in a desperate struggle that would determine the future of our continent. Both Northern and Southern soldiers, Unionist and Confederate, answered the call of their leaders and fixed rifles and bayonets on one another, knowing full well this matter of life and death had more at stake than of their own individual lives. It would decidedly lay to rest the issue of which lifestyle had the right to prosper - that of slavery or of freedom. While northerners rioted in cities and cried out against forceful drafts, southerners suffered through starvation and the destruction of their homeland. The same people who had prospered together in peace endured the horrors of conflict.

Why did they sacrifice themselves? For what purpose did they kill and die? Was it freedom, or the right to self-sovereignty? The end of institutional slavery? I'm sure the answer would vary depending on who was asked, but I imagine that soldiers would disregard the ideological struggle at hand and present more basic responses: for their families, homes, and battle brothers. Wether of not it was realized individually, each man who took to the field those pivotal days would cast their lives in the name of a future they sought to shape.   

150 years later and the North and South are no longer at war with one another. Instead, it is a war of a different kind between different groups of people: the Republican and Democratic parties. Conflict is willfully sought between fellow countryman instead of comprise and congress. Politically, this nation is divided so bitterly that is is nearly impossible for polar opposite ideologies to communicate. This is exacerbated by a media that constantly reminds us of the divisions between our political groups. Instead of working together, we are shown by example of our elected officials how to oppose one another, how to beat your opponents and, if you cannot force your way, either manipulate the system at whatever cost necessary or turn upon the host itself and inflict wounds to spite everyone. Instead of changing their beliefs to adhere to the desires of more people, many political leaders try to eliminate people's fundamental right to express their will. This is just one example of the injustice that has been brought into existence and strengthened by ignorance and manipulation; there are many more that must be treated as such, and thereby removed from our society.   

This aliment runs deeper than political alignment and, like a cancer, it is spreading; the seeds of infection have taken root in the heart and poisoned the mind with it.  Increasingly, it is becoming a matter of which group you or I falls under, liberal or conservative, and that dictates everything about us. This determines who we vote for, who we agree with, who we converse and share opinions with. It sheds light on how we see the world, what we desire from our leaders and how they should shape our future. Almost comedically, citizens have publicly presented the idea of succession with hopes of inspiring other dissatisfied Americans to join them; don't take my word for it, a few minutes on the internet will bring this issue to life. This is a very dangerous phenomenon that echos the antebellum era with striking similarities.

Having conflicting beliefs is one thing - natural at that - but to vehemently oppose your fellow countrymen's beliefs to a point that you threaten treason, is an entirely different story. The same chords that were ringing out in the prewar years are resonating once again. I do not think it will come to war, but the existence of this fierce opposition to change is a problem we must all come to terms with. How can we walk forward with one leg turned back, trying its hardest to propel us back where we have been? We cannot effectively govern this way; we have all seen how partisan politics has brought not only progress, but prosperity, to a screeching halt. This cannot be. We must learn from our past mistakes and move forward together, as one nation.

The purpose of these words is not to spread gloom and despair but to remind us of our infinite potential, for both great and terrible things. We must reconcile ourselves with the reality that we are often detached from, in hopes of preserving the benevolence this nation has offered humanity.
The United States of America is a empire just like many that have come before it. Like all empires, it is subject to growth, stagnation, and decay over the span of its lifetime. Whether out of indifference or hubris, it is foolish to ignore the natural progression that pervades all facets of life from the tiniest organism to the most spectacular social achievement of mankind, the empire. We are unique in our short history and youthful ambition. Our power and military prowess is unmatched, our economic development allows for a historically high standard of living, and the great minds who have played their parts on history's stage have endlessly stoke the embers of innovation and technological achievement. Providence has guided our leaders to benefit not just citizens of this nation, but human beings throughout the world, by striving for peace and communion with one another.

150 years later it is time for all citizens, Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative alike to remember what brave men had the courage to fight and die for; a future which their struggle gave them a role in. Although no one can foresee what is to come, what is definite is that there will be many pressing challenges for us to face. How we handle our future will be determined by our ability to collectively deal with obstacles and changing circumstances, an indicative factor of our nation's well-being. We, the people of the United States of America, must come together to settle our differences and move beyond petty political grievances in order to ensure our prosperity and protect our future. Let us not forget the past, ignore the present, and shy away from the future but instead strive towards perfection.  

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