Living in America
In the wake of recent political turmoil in the US, including the 2016 election and movement for gun reform, I wrote this song in attempt to address the loss of respect within national discussions. For it is respect that is fundamental to bringing together such a diverse nation.
There are many things that make America the beautiful nation it is. LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT of HAPPINESS constitute the most famous and glorified aspects. However, it is respect that is most fundamental to the prospering of all three of these points. And it is respect that drives us most to collaborate and negotiate as true Americans. Living in the so called, melting pot, of the world, we must learn to have respect for those with different cultural, linguistic, and religious backgrounds. Furthermore, living in a country with many differing individual ideologies spanning through two broad colors, we must learn to rationally respect the opinions of those we oppose.
When somebody opposes you, would it not be beneficial to you to try to change their mind? Specifically, can respect not be a catalyst of persuasion? You see, it is respect that fuels strong political and ideological discourse. Without it, there would be no point to govern this nation, afterall we are a popular sovereign country, outlined in perhaps the most important document of all American History. Respect guides conversation between Americans of all different races, religions, and ideologies. Respect from the government to its people, like that of the first amendment, for better or worse, allows us to speak our minds on how we wish America to be.
However, nowadays the line of respect seems to be falling short as it falls into the hands of the people. Productive and respectful ideological debates have devolved into series’ of cheap shots and attempts to insult those of differing ideals, regardless if it is even relevant to their actual values. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of America’s greatest heroes, was extremely adamant about peaceful protest. He said in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, “The nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage they did not know they had.” Clearly Dr. King understood the importance and utility of respect when fighting for what you believe. This however has been greatly forgotten by many Americans.
Recently, I have been involved in the Never Again movement, in attempt to combat gun violence in the US. It brings me great sadness when I hear fellow students or adults, who dislike ideas of gun reform, assault the movement by using generalized insults, that take away from the conversation. However it brings me even more sadness when I see people on my side of the movement insult the opposers. It really does nothing for moving the movement. Without respect, nobody on the other side will ever be willing to compromise. What got us to this point? Perhaps it is how our media has grown so viciously politicized or how our recent political events have been so lacking in respect between participants.
Whatever the case may be, we as Americans have a responsibility. We must regain the fundamental strength of respect. Everyone must work together to revive it. Politicians must speak with respect all the same as every other American citizen. We must cease our attempts to win political debates with insults of character and return to informative, respectful, and therefore constructive conversations. It is these that give the most insight into possible solutions to national or even international problems. And it is these that make America what I believe it should be: a land of free people, fighting for what they wish their country to be, and fighting well.