transcendentalism was as diverse as modern america

Transcendentalism Was As Diverse As Modern America, But It Isn't Taught That Way

Rich white men are not the only ones who held sway over our past. We need to recognize that, and we need to embrace it.


In my English class, the main subject is the Transcendentalists. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, Transcendentalism was a time period in American history occurring between the times of 1830 and 1900. It was mostly a literary movement (hence why I have such a keen interest in it) and was characterized by moving away from traditional church doctrine, an embracing of rationality, and an intense belief in divinity pervading all aspects of nature, including the human soul.

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are two of the most well-known transcendentalists, but other influential people of the time included one of the original feminist icons Margaret Fuller, the educational revolutionary Elizabeth Peabody, and the African American abolitionist and activist William C. Nell. I find it incredibly interesting and very telling about the state of our nation, then and now, that the final three names listed are less famous than the former two.

Emerson and Thoreau were both eloquent speakers and writers, and their audiences often exceeded numbers in the hundreds. Their writing styles and the content of their essays hold influence over American writing even to this day. If we as a society are bestowing fame upon people based on their legacy's and their influence, then both men are certainly worthy of remembrance. Based on that criteria, however, then are Fuller, Peabody, and Nell not also incredibly worthy of such remembrance?

Margaret Fuller wrote The Great Lawsuit, in which she condemns those who practice slavery as being without divine love, and later states that women and men have no real difference in their souls, and that "there is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman," an idea that has been reiterated time and time again by psychologists and feminists writers such as Simone de Beauvoir.

Elizabeth Peabody assisted Amos Bronson Alcott in his development of the experimental Temple School. Her belief that children's play and individual development is essential to their learning and understanding of their school teachings became a pillar in the educational system, and her concepts are used in school systems all across modern America.

William C. Nell was a black journalist, abolitionist, and civil rights activist during the mid-1800s, and he worked towards integrating school systems in Massachusetts. His written works include personal accounts of his experiences assisting with the Underground Railroad and recording other African Americans' stories of slavery, freedom, and personal lives. Thanks to his research and accounts, we have knowledge of cemetery records, the first-hand accounts of many experiences of black people of the nineteenth century, and the recorded and remembered name of Crispus Attucks (the first martyr of the Revolutionary War). Nell worked side by side with both Harriet Beecher Stowe and Frederick Douglass.

It has struck me recently, during my class over the Transcendentalist Movement, that these names, despite all the work and influence that they have over America, are names that I have never heard of and was never taught in school until now, in this very focused class. The only Transcendentalists that I had heard of up to this point were those of Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott, and Channing.

They are the names of the people who were considered, during their time, to be the most relevant. They were white, they were wealthy, and they were men. They are the legacy of the Transcendentalist movement, even though they played but a small part in the development and reach of the movement. For a time period that apparently represents and defines America to this day, the actual representation seems very narrow.

We are a nation filled with diverse people, of diverse backgrounds, a rainbow not only in the color of our skin but in the range of our experiences. We need to show this, not only in modern media (which has certainly made leaps and bounds recently in the area of inclusion) but also in how we show our history.

Rich white men are not the only ones who held sway over our past. We need to recognize that, and we need to embrace it.

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An Open Letter To Democrats From A Millennial Republican

Why being a Republican doesn't mean I'm inhuman.

Dear Democrats,

I have a few things to say to you — all of you.

You probably don't know me. But you think you do. Because I am a Republican.

Gasp. Shock. Horror. The usual. I know it all. I hear it every time I come out of the conservative closet here at my liberal arts university.

SEE ALSO: What I Mean When I Say I'm A Young Republican

“You're a Republican?" people ask, saying the word in the same tone that Draco Malfoy says “Mudblood."

I know that not all Democrats feel about Republicans this way. Honestly, I can't even say for certain that most of them do. But in my experience, saying you're a Republican on a liberal college campus has the same effect as telling someone you're a child molester.

You see, in this day and age, with leaders of the Republican Party standing up and spouting unfortunately ridiculous phrases like “build a wall," and standing next to Kim Davis in Kentucky after her release, we Republicans are given an extreme stereotype. If you're a Republican, you're a bigot. You don't believe in marriage equality. You don't believe in racial equality. You don't believe in a woman's right to choose. You're extremely religious and want to impose it on everyone else.

Unfortunately, stereotypes are rooted in truth. There are some people out there who really do think these things and feel this way. And it makes me mad. The far right is so far right that they make the rest of us look bad. They make sure we aren't heard. Plenty of us are fed up with their theatrics and extremism.

For those of us brave enough to wear the title “Republican" in this day and age, as millennials, it's different. Many of us don't agree with these brash ideas. I'd even go as far as to say that most of us don't feel this way.

For me personally, being a Republican doesn't even mean that I automatically vote red.

When people ask me to describe my political views, I usually put it pretty simply. “Conservative, but with liberal social views."

“Oh," they say, “so you're a libertarian."

“Sure," I say. But that's the thing. I'm not really a libertarian.

Here's what I believe:

I believe in marriage equality. I believe in feminism. I believe in racial equality. I don't want to defund Planned Parenthood. I believe in birth control. I believe in a woman's right to choose. I believe in welfare. I believe more funds should be allocated to the public school system.

Then what's the problem? Obviously, I'm a Democrat then, right?

Wrong. Because I have other beliefs too.

Yes, I believe in the right to choose — but I'd always hope that unless a pregnancy would result in the bodily harm of the woman, that she would choose life. I believe in welfare, but I also believe that our current system is broken — there are people who don't need it receiving it, and others who need it that cannot access it.

I believe in capitalism. I believe in the right to keep and bear arms, because I believe we have a people crisis on our hands, not a gun crisis. Contrary to popular opinion, I do believe in science. I don't believe in charter schools. I believe in privatizing as many things as possible. I don't believe in Obamacare.

Obviously, there are other topics on the table. But, generally speaking, these are the types of things we millennial Republicans get flack for. And while it is OK to disagree on political beliefs, and even healthy, it is NOT OK to make snap judgments about me as a person. Identifying as a Republican does not mean I am the same as Donald Trump.

Just because I am a Republican, does not mean you know everything about me. That does not give you the right to make assumptions about who I am as a person. It is not OK for you to group me with my stereotype or condemn me for what I feel and believe. And for a party that prides itself on being so open-minded, it shocks me that many of you would be so judgmental.

So I ask you to please, please, please reexamine how you view Republicans. Chances are, you're missing some extremely important details. If you only hang out with people who belong to your own party, chances are you're missing out on great people. Because, despite what everyone believes, we are not our stereotype.


A millennial Republican

Cover Image Credit: NEWSWORK.ORG

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Why The Idea Of 'No Politics At The Dinner Table' Takes Place And Why We Should Avoid It

When did having a dialogue become so rare?


Why has the art of civilized debate and conversation become unheard of in daily life? Why is it considered impolite to talk politics with coworkers and friends? Expressing ideas and discussing different opinions should not be looked down upon.

I have a few ideas as to why this is our current societal norm.

1. Politics is personal.

Your politics can reveal a lot about who you are. Expressing these (sometimes controversial) opinions may put you in a vulnerable position. It is possible for people to draw unfair conclusions from one viewpoint you hold. This fosters a fear of judgment when it comes to our political beliefs.

Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum of political belief, there is a world of assumption that goes along with any opinion. People have a growing concern that others won't hear them out based on one belief.

As if a single opinion could tell you all that you should know about someone. Do your political opinions reflect who you are as a person? Does it reflect your hobbies? Your past?

The question becomes "are your politics indicative enough of who you are as a person to warrant a complete judgment?"

Personally, I do not think you would even scratch the surface of who I am just from knowing my political identification.

2. People are impolite.

The politics themselves are not impolite. But many people who wield passionate, political opinion act impolite and rude when it comes to those who disagree.

The avoidance of this topic among friends, family, acquaintances and just in general, is out of a desire to 'keep the peace'. Many people have friends who disagree with them and even family who disagree with them. We justify our silence out of a desire to avoid unpleasant situations.

I will offer this: It might even be better to argue with the ones you love and care about, because they already know who you are aside from your politics, and they love you unconditionally (or at least I would hope).

We should be having these unpleasant conversations. And you know what? They don't even need to be unpleasant! Shouldn't we be capable of debating in a civilized manner? Can't we find common ground?

I attribute the loss of political conversation in daily life to these factors. 'Keeping the peace' isn't an excuse. We should be discussing our opinions constantly and we should be discussing them with those who think differently.

Instead of discouraging political conversation, we should be encouraging kindness and understanding. That's how we will avoid the unpleasantness that these conversations sometimes bring.

By avoiding them altogether, we are doing our youth a disservice because they are not being exposed to government, law, and politics, and they are not learning to deal with people and ideas that they don't agree with.

Next Thanksgiving, talk politics at the table.

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