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For nearly 242 years, The United States of America has been regarded as the proud, independent rebel nation of the West. Millions journeyed from Europe and the Old World to lay eyes upon what would come to be known as the, "New Rome." But what made the young nation the place to be? It surely wasn't the brutal New England winters or the swamp land in the the South that made it worth crossing thousands of miles of water to reach America's golden shores. It was the proposition that, "All men are created equal" that made these United States worth dying for.
When Thomas Jefferson jotted that phrase onto the sheet of parchment paper, that would go on to affectionately be called The Declaration of Independence, he had no intentions for it to include the slaves working his plantations, or his own daughters. He had not the slightest idea that his phrase would lead to America electing a black man to serve as its Commander in Chief. However, after many years of struggle, and passionate debate, every person born in the boundaries of this nation can claim to be an equal member of society.
Nonetheless, the spirit of passionate debate that led to the freedoms we can all claim as Americans, is slowly fading away from our midst. It was the decency of debate that led to the Great Compromise that established our Federal Government. It was the decency of debate that desegregated our nation's schools. It was the decency of debate that led to the right of every American being able to vote for our leaders. Now that this decency is being placed on the back-burner, we no longer express the need for decorum when we are at odds with each other. We have come to a place as Americans where we are so polarized on the issues we face, we believe that anyone who disagrees with us is a bad person. We can scroll in the comments of Facebook posts by elected officials and find disgusting terms such as, "Libtards" or "Deplorables." These should not be the words we use to describe our fellow citizens when they disagree with us. While these terms seem like harmless political gestures, they underscore a much deeper sentiment of hatred that is brewing in our nation. The bloodiest war in United States history wasn't fought against the British, the Vietnamese, or even the Iraqis; it was fought among ourselves. Brother against brother, father against son. If history teaches us anything, it's that it tends to repeat itself when forgotten. In the years leading up to the Civil War, the rhetoric between the Northern and Southern states became so heated, that the young nation nearly ceased to exist. Yet, it was leaders like John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, and Sam Houston who stood up to the bigotry and hatred—that was being incited by the harsh, indecent debates—and decided that action was needed to preserve the Union.
Today we find ourselves at a similar crossroads. We find ourselves divided on issues that once seemed effortless to resolve. In the times before the Civil War, there was no Facebook or Twitter for Northerners and Southerners to troll behind, now we're equipped with the medium of social media to spread our diverse ideologies. It us up to us as an American People to preserve our union. When our elected officials start to realize that we are fully capable of coming to compromise and solutions ourselves, there will be no more baseless cries for bipartisanship. The ineffectiveness of government stems from the will of the people to be divided. Once we decide that there is a way to combat climate change, there is a way to deal with illegal immigration, there is a way to keep Americans safe, then and only then will our divisions become erased and our unity will thrive. We can imagine the success of our nation as a small yacht. The helm of the yacht is in the center, and whenever everyone is at the helm, the yacht moves forward. If half of the people on board decide to run to one end of the vessel and the other half runs to the other side of the vessel, then there is no one at the helm and the yacht is at a standstill. But when the people move back towards the center and work together to move the yacht forward, progress is now being made. Our nation must be treated as a mega yacht, where nothing becomes done without everyone's cooperation. When we can incorporate decorum, compromise, and cooperation back into our politics, we will truly become great again.