We are the Tired, the Poor, the Huddled Masses
An old anecdote told about the relationship between President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill is that regardless of the heated debates they would have about policy, when the clock struck 6 p.m., they were simply friends. From this, we find a guide to life in our heated times of political tribalism: No matter how argumentative we get, how rough our discourse can be on both sides of the political spectrum, at the end of the day we are just friends, just Americans. And yet, in an era of “gotcha journalism” and viral videos, the clocks no longer strike 6, nor do they stop. We constantly see the tweets and breaking news flashes notify us of new updates to the storyline of the never-ending seasons of “America: The Series.”
To many, this tedious narrative has been an exhausting experience and we wonder if there will ever be an end to it. We seek a return to that normalcy that we once recall, to self-correct back to a status quo that existed for the longest of times. A time when we debated policy, not personality and when political attacks were about why their policy was the right one for the country, not nicknames best suited for the box of an action figure. And I wonder sometimes, where did that go? Where did the times go where we did not shun our friends or family based on how they voted in an election and when we could sit at a table together on Thanksgiving and not all grab the carving knife in frustration? It’s a desire to return to those Norman Rockwell days where you would go for a stroll down Main Street and walk past an array of those old Mom and Pop stores. Dare I say that it’s a desire to truly make this country great again, though those who claim to best understand our country struggle to understand what made it great in the first place. It is not ripping a copy of a State of the Union speech nor is it ridiculing political rivals by pointing out frivolous externalities due to an inability to debate a policy issue. No, that’s not the return we should seek. Because that is never what made our country great nor will it do us any favors in the long run. The crave we have is one of more nuance, beyond cheap slogans, campaign pins and red hats. Because those of us that have taken the time to learn from our country’s past and to accept it for both the glory and the flaws know what it is that we stand for: a belief that we don’t belittle the opinions of others, but rather lend them our ear in exchange for theirs. For each of these individual liberties we have been granted in this land of golden opportunity should not become distorted by selfish desires of betterment at the belittlement of our fellow community members. We work on ourselves and yes, we are all entitled to a life full of liberty and the pursuit of our own happiness, yet why should we ignore our communities for a short-term gain. To quote a proverb from Ancient Greece, the forebearer of our modern democratic system, a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. To me, this sums up the beautiful history of our country, which was not founded on the beliefs of forced collectivism, rather developed it along the way. We see this through the pioneers that crossed the country and the communities that they built throughout each state that boosted people up and never put them down. It’s the idea that community members would rally alongside one another in support of a cause they cared about that served as the very nature for the birth of this country.
We once referred to this country as the shining city on the hill, yet take a look around and tell me what you see. The luster of the once-glistening metal wonders we built has faded away. We littered the streets and parks with the empty bottles of Kool-Aid we have all chosen to drink. Some prefer the blue and some prefer the red, but at the end of the day, it makes no difference to the discourse that we have fostered because the flag bleeds the same. It’s sad to say it, but that city that once stood tall and unwavering is no longer one of golden opportunity. It’s become a mausoleum of a bygone era none of us even remember anymore. So let’s lower the flags to half mast for the time being in mourning but let us pray that one day, we’ll light Liberty’s torch and the city will shine anew again.
Photo Caption: It’s a desire to return to those Norman Rockwell days.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons