Well, here it is, the beginning of my third and final year at State. Truth be told, I think I may be more confused now than when I first set foot on this godforsaken ground. “Go to college,” they say. “Get an education,” they say. And here I am, diligently keeping my nose in the books and following the curricula for that final goal.
But what of it? In one year, I will walk away from this place with a piece of paper that says I survived. Not only did I survive, I did my homework too. And then? I take that certificate of due diligence and mediocre accomplishment ‘round to all the open doors with a slot to fill. If I’m lucky, I find a kind and gracious master, one who appreciates my qualities and rewards them with a livable wage. And so the story goes.
History tells us wonderful tales of all that America has done. It tells us the triumphs and accomplishments of America. But the term “history” clearly implies the past.
What is America now? We claim to be the best, but at what, claiming to be the best? What do we do? What do we offer? What the hell is America? Best I can tell it’s an institution overrun by personal influence ensuring the wealthy continuation to profit, at whatever cost. And that cost passes to us.
We’re spoon-fed magical stories of finding true love and ascending from rags to riches from birth, all told to keep us blindly hopeful for a day when we want nothing. Reality, though, is a much more bleak, anticlimactic tale. The ride has run its course and it’s time to decide whether we repair the keel, hull and mast or simply abandon ship.
America has become a nation, not full of Americans, but full of individuals. We spend our time between the token machine and the carnival rides, and if there’s a ride out of our reach we visit the token master to promise him three tomorrow for two today.
We are consumers to our core. America is no longer a nation; it’s a shopping mall. We’ve lost all sense of locality and community for an undying allegiance to that ever-inspiring banner of red, white and blue, a pennant created with a greater hope for humanity in mind.
But, as is the fate of most great women, Lady Liberty has found herself taken advantage of. Her generosity we strain, her admiration we turn to narcissistic pride, her pursuit of equality is jaded to seek unfair advantage and her love is taken selfishly without reciprocation.
The only faith we mutually share is hope. A nation consecrated on the hope and belief that people desire to participate and influence its direction has become filled with a people who hope there are others who desire to participate and influence its direction. But not us. Not today. What a silly faith.
I’ll tell you what I’ve learned of faith. Faith is a debilitating drug leading you to a place where you can easily overlook your shortcomings, forgive your trespasses and whittle away a path for which you seek constant admiration. Faith is a favorite drug because it frees you from accountability.
So, while the semester is still young, let’s say we put away our lists of relatives we have not killed off, take a moment to remember why we’re here and show up to class more often than test days. Hell, maybe we’ll even participate in a discussion. If we’re lucky we might see some spark of intellectual curiosity within ourselves.
We need to get past the incited fire burning for belonging, acceptance and escape. Even the luckiest among those still become tattered, broken and most often in need of a penicillin shot. The world is our playground, sure. But the “American Way” must be something greater than paying someone else to be its maintenance crew.