I believe in our democratic nation.
“Do you want to march with us?” he asked.
“No, I can’t” I replied quickly “I have to grade papers and teach. I also have papers to write.”
The next day I approached the counter at a store I frequent. A stack of local newspapers was displayed next to the register. The owner pointed to it and said “so they’re marching tomorrow”. “Yep” I said, term papers still on my mind. “What do you think?” he asked me. “Well, it’s a complicated issue” I replied not wanting to engage. This seemed to be negatively interpreted as a sign that I was against it. This encounter agitated me. I was too preoccupied to have the energy to actively engage in such a serious topic. I carried on and continued working on my term paper. My term paper for my rhetoric and the public sphere seminar. My term paper about citizenry and democratic participation. How ironic. How depressing.
The next morning I woke up to NPR, keenly aware of just what day it was. It was the day of the marches. I thought, “I’m not keeping up on current events, I’m not giving to the community, and I’m not even able to participate in rational debate about front page national issues. All of this at a time when I am devoting myself to the academic study of the public sphere.” Despite my disappointment in myself, with a strange sense of excitement I turned on the television. I looked at the screen and saw masses of people wearing white shirts and carrying signs and flags of the United States of America. People come together in classic democratic fashion to defend their belief in the American Dream. I looked at the people in the streets and remembered when I marched in Chicago. I was 8. A unique adventure with my mom and her friends into a river of friendly strangers gathered for a common purpose. In that civil march we wore yellow sashes that read ERA.
The television showed people cheering for the United States. This image was powerful. I saw signs that read “we are not criminals,” and I thought about it. Most illegal immigrants are driven to cross the border by very human motivations. If breaking the law makes a criminal, then I suppose that my unpaid bicycle ticket makes me one too. I thought about the importance of border security, and the fiasco that it is. I also thought about those that die in their attempts to cross. I felt overwhelmed by the complexity and gravity of the issues. Then I saw signs that read “We are Americans,” and I thought about this. Certainly the people carrying these signs and those all around them were behaving much more like good Americans than I felt I was. Seeing thousands of marchers around the nation changed me. It rekindled my hope for our nation’s future. It strengthened my faith in myself and in other Americans – current and future. My spirits lifted as I was vigorously reminded that in this, our country – for the people, by the people— I do believe.
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