by Ashley Calkins
It’s very easy these days to look at the news and feel hopeless. World hunger strikes, war wages on, people die, and the government is ruled by an egotistical man lacking morality. Very easy, indeed, to look at our nation and think to ourselves, “What have we become?” Rightly so; the events of the past few years are just short of horrific. If not petrifying.
Yet, I go by the words of Langston Hughes’ poem, “Let America be America Again.” America was founded to be the land of the free, the home of the brave, where equality reigned. Yet our pride of our land and past achievements has kept us from truly seeing what America is. America has never been the land of the free, brave, or equality to me. I’ve never known such a thing, truly.
I am not free to go to school without the fear of gun violence. The cowardice of many has created the terror that is our president, the ignorance of our masses has allowed him to gain office. And now, if there ever was true equality in this nation (which I can say has never been true), it most certainly is being wiped away by the current Trump regime.
What have we become?
I was raised a military child, under the government of the United States. War has always been horrific to me; I witnessed children cry when their parents were deployed. I held my friends as they worried that they would never see their parents again. Yet Trump is bringing us closer and closer to a deadly war with Iran. Not to mention the tensions with North Korea. Where is the freedom to have a growing, happy family when our president continues to threaten our nation with war? Who will die for his words? Whose families will be ripped apart? Not his. Yet, the military is not the most affected victim: minorities are.
I am an immigrant, and a white, European immigrant, at that. I will never say I had it harsh when I immigrated to the U.S., I know my skin and nationality kept me safe. To me, the fact that one immigrant is safer than another alone is horrific enough as it is, that one immigrant is seen as more favorable than another. The mere fact that in this country a person is seen as less, based on their skin color, nationality, or religion is horrendous.
What will come to my Hispanic friends whose parents came here “illegally?” Am I to stand by and allow their families to be ripped apart by the inhumane actions of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)? Will their siblings, or themselves, be lost next in the immigration system alongside the other 1,500 kids ICE has lost?
Where is the equality in that?
Where is the freedom in that?
Where is the bravery – to stand for what is right – in that?
I don’t see it.
In a nation where families are stripped apart, where a homophobic, sexist, racist man is our president, what are we to do?
We rise and make America, America again.
By marching, by volunteering, by campaigning, by donating, by living each day knowing each act has an impact. By refusing to be on the side of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. By being true to beliefs, and voting.
I came to this nation proud to be an American-German citizen. I was proud of this country. Remind me again, why?
Hughes’ poem ends in words that ring true to those who march and work toward our values:
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath —
America will be!”
Ashley Calkins is a member of Students NextUP, a coalition of progressive high school and college students from throughout the 25th Congressional District and beyond.