Editor’s note: Noa Baggs’ essay won first place in the VFW Americanism essay contest.
For something that doesn’t exist, the future seems to be quite a hot topic. Something as intangible as the future, that cannot be seen, observed or measured, is what many spend their entire lives building around. We save money for our future, we go to college for our future, we have schools for our future. All these fundamental parts of modern culture, built with the future in mind. Right now, I go to school for the sole purpose of bettering my future, and for many teens just like me, it’s all we can think about, staying up late in bed wondering, What’s in my future? Who will I be, what will I do? It comes to no surprise then how important the future ends up being for us. Just by being there, the future affects the present. It changes what we do, how we act, because we know it’s there, we know that one day, it’s going to be our present. We worry, we hope, sometimes, we even cry for our future. Just as important as our individual futures are, think how important our country’s future is. One future, that decides so many others, it affects us all. That’s why we worry for America’s future sometimes, that’s why we have hope for it.
There are many problems to address, almost too many to count. Some hope for cushier futures, with low taxes and high incomes. Some hope for futures full of peace and love. Others still are content with the status quo, perfectly satisfied with their current positions. My hope is that America’s future, and hopefully, the world’s future as well, is one with open discourse and full of critique. Currently, there is much division in the states, over a myriad of topics, some of the bigger ones including politics, religion, ethics. People riot in the streets, creating ever widening chasms between groups of fellow Americans with whom they do not agree. It is troubling to me the severity of this problem, in a country whose name begins with “United”. Differing ideas are important, it creates dialogues necessary for progression, but dialogues are being shut down. Whole groups of people disenfranchised by other groups, not even willing to listen to each other. I’m not asking for everyone to agree with each other, that would be stupid. You’ll never get hundreds of millions of people to agree with each other on anything. I just want people to be able to exchange ideas and opinions without being silenced or afraid to share theirs. The climate in America right now is like stepping on eggshells. Say the wrong thing and the media will eat you up, disagree with the groupthink and you’ll be hated. This is the opposite of what we need as a country.
Ever since the United States became a country, it has been divided on countless issues. Not to say we haven’t had periods of strong nationalism and unity, but as a nation we’ve always disagreed with each other. Sometimes, we disagreed violently, like in the case of the Civil War. Other times, we were able to find more appropriate compromises, which we saw a lot of early in the country’s history. Change was usually facilitated through political discourse, but rebellions such as the one orchestrated by Daniel Shays were not unheard of, sparking change for better. It’s a shame when the people have no other choice than resort to violence to become heard and start a change. Right now, many people are not heard, and it isn’t because their voice isn’t loud enough. It’s because they’re being silenced and disenfranchised. Too often I have heard someone told their opinion of a topic is irrelevant, simply because of their gender or race.
I cannot hope to dissuade some people of their beliefs, many are too fervent. What I can hope to do however, is encourage debate instead or arguing, protests instead of riots, and love instead of hate. I know that some people will not listen, but others will, and that’s more important. If we can facilitate a culture of open discussion and open minds, perhaps the problems we face may not seem so daunting. A group effort can solve most problems, which I believe is in our collective interest. There are problems to be solved, sure, but they cannot be solved until America is unified and focused, instead of bickering with itself. Change starts with the individual however, and to get America to this point, we need to acknowledge that. Just try to open your mind and listen. The only thing under your control is yourself, and by controlling yourself, you can be the change you want to see in the world.
“The best way to predict your future is to create it.” – Abraham Lincoln