Maybe it’s time for us to start looking for new ways to force people out of their geographical and digital bubbles and help them to see that we have more in common than we do differences. Domestic exchange programs and building a new Civilian Conservation Corps would be great places to start, developing friendships and connections that potentially last decades. There is no shame in loving our homes and taking great pride in our towns, cities, and states. The problem is when we see those towns, cities, and states as “the best of all possible worlds,” to borrow a phrase from Candide.
We have to stop depending on our politicians to make our country better. Yes, there are big things that we individual citizens are not capable of doing on our own, but this is our country. We don’t have to wait for others to make it a better, more equitable place for all of us.
As Americans we have watched the pendulum swing higher and higher to the left and the right with each election cycle. It has left many of us in the middle out of the conversation, asking what we need to do to get our politicians to listen to us. The answer is simple: active citizenship. Our founding fathers and mothers fought for a country with an imperfect system, but they believed that future generations would keep working to figure it out. For a long time, people did keep tinkering with the experiment in an effort to make a “more perfect union.” But then we got lazy, believing that the machine would keep working without our maintenance and care.
Yes, it is uncomfortable and it is against human nature to be uncomfortable. We don’t like feeling uneasy and unsure about our past, present, and future. But the harsh truth is that we are long past overdue for an honest conversation about race and the role that the history of oppression continues to play in our present.
Arguing for an expansion of what it means to be for is incredibly idealistic, I realize that. It requires vulnerability and work and a willingness to change when we realize our narrow definitions of what we are for cannot be supported by a real world application. But doing so will make us stronger people more confident in our beliefs and more open to discovery.