As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together — through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government.”
I just listened to our re-elected president’s victory speech from last night, and I am moved by it. Throughout the last few days and weeks, as my Facebook newsfeed, the media, and my conversations with friends and acquaintances have become a frenzy of political debate and speculation, I have been pondering our country’s differences.
It has become clear, as it does in every important election, that we as a country are severely divided. There are a few key issues that Americans cannot see eye-to-eye on, and these issues rip us apart. The news would lead us to believe that there is no way to breach this divide, that Americans have always been fighting about these issues, and that we always will. The media, political speculators, politicians themselves, and good old red-blooded Americans all seem to believe that there is no way to work together–that the idea of real bipartisanship (or post-partisanship?) is an idealist’s unachievable dream.
If there is one thing that I learned this summer, bicycling across this amazing country and trying to help out where I could, it is that the idea that America is broken and there is no way we can band together to fix it, is completely wrong.
This summer I learned what kindness was–I learned that Americans across party, gender, age, and socioeconomic lines are generous, thoughtful, and loving. Americans want to help their country, and their fellow citizens. Americans are willing to put in the hard work to change the world around them, and they do!
The flip-side of what Obama is saying in the quote above and in much of the rest of his speech, is that because we are self-governed (i.e. the American people decide what our government looks like), it is our fault when it becomes the disgusting pit of grid-lock that it is today, and it is our responsibility to change it if we disagree.
Our government is not imposed from without, our government is not something far away that we have no power over, our government is not merely taking us along for the ride. America is based on the idea that the people create how the country is run–that’s what is so amazing and beautiful about our government. We have the power.
If we dislike who is running our government, if we dislike how partisan and corporate and unresponsive to people who don’t pad the wallets of politicians America is, then it is our responsibility to change it. We have elected a president that half of the country likes more than the other option. And what will we do next?
I think it’s about time that I get up off the couch, with this message in mind, and start enacting the change I want to see again. Although it is so easy to get cynical, believing the constant message I hear from the media that we are an apathetic nation, that change is not possible, that our government has been run by the 1% since the beginning and always will be, I am going to hold on to this call from our President. Despite what he does or does not do in the next four year, I know what my place in this country is: to hope, and to take action.
And I hope that I can see my fellow Americans–across all labels and parties–join together to understand one another and build a country that we all can live in.