Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Divergent America

June 22, 2010 3 comments

Tea Party protesters.

January 20th, 2009: the inauguration of President Barack Obama and the day that some optimists pointed to as the beginning of a post-racial America. An idea first promulgated by the President himself, it seemed to be the quintessential achievement of a progressive, boundary-breaking new America. No more racial, economic or political tension; it was to be a new era. I call these people optimists for the fairly evident fact, at least when you look at the makeup of the entire country, that Americans are nowhere close to overcoming our differences. All things equal, that is what America is all about: a melting pot where individuals can cultivate their individuality. But what if that’s not true anymore? What if we’ve gotten to a place where we no longer have those overarching American similarities to unite us? Whose America is this?

In March, the New York Times ran a piece discussing American identity politics through the scope of the Texas Board of Education’s landmark decision to imprint its state’s history and social studies text books with a conservative rubber stamp. Green-lighting academic changes ranging from new views on WWII internment to detailed analysis of the Moral Majority, this decision will affect a generation, if not more, of young Texans. While it is an unprecedented and egregious affront to historical accuracy, it is but a microcosm of a larger, deeper trend. A primary season highlighted by Tea Party candidates and rampant anti-incumbent sentiment speaks to the ever-widening chasm in our political system. Threats from right-wing maniacs towards Democratic lawmakers during the country’s health care debate illustrate the impassable ideological divide fermenting for some Americans. What does it mean? Aren’t these just the normal, healthy differences that make a vibrant democratic society function? I’m not so sure anymore.

I am, admittedly, a liberal. However, throughout the course of my life I’ve considered myself exceedingly tolerant, willing to discuss opposing ideals and overall an sympathetic ear. Over the past four years I’ve slowly lost that part of myself. We live in an epoch of hot-button issues. Immigration, gay marriage, health care, social security; all of these issues bring out the ideological worst in people. In a time that calls for intellectual dialogue on the issues, we have fear-mongering and constant prodding of insecurities by twenty-four hour news outlets. Instead of true governance, we have the minority party of “no.” The gap between liberal and conservative seems to grow daily, never inching, no matter how quietly, closer together.

The current Gulf of Mexico oil spill will go down on record as an unparalleled ecological disaster. It should be a flashpoint of classic American togetherness. Today, however, we have a state and a party pointing their fingers and screaming, “foul!” at the federal government. For what? Political gain? Ideological differences? For sport? No one answer can be pinned down. This, however, is fact: we live in a country where other’s beliefs no longer matter to those with polarized, ideologically volatile mindsets. Once upon a time, maybe for the baby boomers, people could bridge that gap with the underlying knowledge that we’re all living in our collective America. That being said, next time you see someone walk down the street with a shirt like this, ask yourself, are we still living in our America? If not, whose America is this?