Nation At The Crossroads: What Lies Ahead?
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Politics and Activism

Nation At The Crossroads: What Lies Ahead?

In a time of pain and uncertain identity, what comes next?

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Nation At The Crossroads: What Lies Ahead?
The New York Times

The past week has not been easy on America. Neither, for that matter, was the past month or perhaps the past year. We, as a nation, have been experiencing events which have rattled us, drilled themselves into our very psyche.

Though we are not even halfway through it, this summer has already brought events which have scraped open old wounds in our collective mind. Those wounds weren't even healed, the blood had only barely clotted, when the bloodletting commenced again. In Orlando, in a place of celebration and pride, 49 people were cut down in the prime of their lives. The nation began asking itself the same questions we've been asking ourselves for years—questions about guns and religion and freedom and hate. In Washington last week, it was announced no charges were recommended against a presidential candidate whom many in the nation felt was bound by the law to answer for crimes. Questions arose, questions about corruption and the rule of law and political dynasties and what goes on in the back rooms. When that candidate is compared with the other, many ask questions about democracy and the lesser of two evils and the two-party system. Some of the most painful questions were asked and some of the darkest blood was shed last week. When two men over a thousand miles from each other were needlessly killed by unnecessary force, age-old questions were asked of race and equality and power and justice. And when the nation awoke to news of five police officers cut down in the line of duty in Dallas, it was as if all the clamoring voices of the nation, rife with anger and frustration and grief, fell into a stunned silence.

And so here we are, a nation abuzz with questions of our own existence and being, left silent by what we have become. It feels as if we have all stopped just short of the cliff of some great chasm and, while peering down into the distant nothingness of the abyss, we say, "Well, what are we going to do?" That's what it feels like to me. We're not hanging over the edge of that precipice, but we're looking at the edge and wondering if that's what we are bound for. We as a nation have come to a point in our path where we have choices to make. The difficult thing about this part of our path is that the trail is not blazed; there is no clear way forward. When you're stumbling through the wilderness and the way forward is uncertain, what can you do? You need to know how to navigate.

I'm a student of history. This country's past is my life and passion. I will never claim to be an expert on it, because I've got a hell of a lot more to learn. There are many wiser and more accomplished historians (or even historians-in-training) than me out there. But America's story is as much a part of me as my own blood. I feel a calling to study and teach about the spirit of this country. I'm no scholar or laureate, I'm just me; but from the sense I get from our past, I feel we're a nation at a crossroads. There have been times in America's history where we've been at a crucial point like this before: 1787, 1860, 1968. These were times when the future looked foggy and the questions we asked about ourselves outnumbered the answers even our leaders could provide. At one point, we were uncertain if the United States could really function as a real nation. At another, the country was about to tear itself apart and descend into oblivion. Later still, as national champions of peace and equality were cruelly shot down and riots swept coast-to-coast against war and inequality, it looked as if our society had lost all direction. I believe that 2016 is to be counted as one of those watershed moments. I have been putting thought toward how history will remember us and what we do, and I think these are days which will be remembered.

We are now faced with many questions, my friends. There is not one of us who has all the answers. These are difficult questions, and the answers will be just as difficult. There is no silver bullet or magic wand which can create a solution to any of the issues that lay before us right now.

We all must ponder: is this a land of liberty and justice for all? Was the thirteenth amendment the only step we needed to take to create equality, or is there more work to be done? What is the place of guns in our society? Are all of us truly equal before the law? What sort of people are we putting into office? What sort of rhetoric are we going to allow to define this nation in the eyes of the world? Are we a nation of tolerance for all? Are we safe?

I know in a way this all seems cryptic. You'd probably really like it if I gave some solutions to these questions. Honestly, I'd like that too, but the fact is, I don't have them. None of us really do, because this is a national conversation we need to have together. At the root of everything, this country has gone a very long time having left unanswered many of the questions which would define who we are. This is the time for the answers to be made. Furthermore, this is the time for the youth of this nation to help answer those questions. We are the generation who will inherit this proud country, and the baton is already being passed to many of us as we come of age. We are the ones who must play a major role in shaping this country now. There's a lot on our shoulders right now.

These are troubled times. I know it, you know it, everyone knows it. We need to be ready for what lies ahead. Especially come the election in November, there is a lot that will change in this nation, and we need to carry that change responsibly. In the weeks and months ahead, be an American of integrity. Do not give in to hate and division—that will only make all this worse. Don't listen to the talking heads that would set us against each other and lead us into conflict. If we are to emerge from all this stronger, there cannot be a black vs. white, pro-police vs. anti-police, left vs. right, etc. All that there can be are Americans concerned for their country and for their fellow Americans. Now more than ever in our recent past is the time we need to remember that no matter our race, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, creed, ability, ethnicity or other division, we are all brothers and sisters in this country that we build together.

That's right, I said build together. This country isn't a finished project. We're still an experiment that is being run—we have been building higher and stronger every single day since 1776. That building did not stop in 1787, 1860 or 1968, and it won't stop now. We need to keep moving. America just celebrated its 240th birthday, and it will be celebrating many more birthdays to come. In everything you do, remember that we are the ones who build the future now. Do not fight with your brothers and sisters when you disagree; listen to each other's concerns and see where each other is coming from. The only way to fix the gaps in our nation is to communicate and listen to each other.

I'm not really the sort to preach universal peace and love. History has taught me that human nature can be ugly sometimes. But history has also taught me that the ugly parts of human nature can be overcome. I wouldn't write this sort of thing if I didn't believe it were possible. But I believe that our young generation is being handed the responsibility for this nation at what will be remembered as a pivotal time. The burden is on us, young America—whether we be rich or poor, black or white or Latinx or Asian or Middle Eastern, gay or straight, liberal or conservative. The burden is upon our shoulders. We've got work to do, my friends. Welcome to the crossroads.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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