Monday, April 12, 2010

America Turning 21: Hope We Don't Regret it Tomorrow?

Most of us envision that wild night; smokey bars and all the friends trying to get the birthday girl or guy to take that 21st shot of alcohol. And the story or memory is far better than the physical reality of this rite of passage in our society. I got off lucky I guess, I had my wisdom teeth removed the night before. My recovery was much easier than most of my friends.

But this classic night in our young adulthood could be a symptom of something bigger, something more complicated going on inside of us; confusion, fear, and the whole "Who Am I?" conundrum that we all go through as we become adults. I think this is what is happening in America today.

Think about the stages of life and compare it to historical or cultural transitions in our country.

Infancy of America(1791-1860) The Constitution had been written (DNA) but Americans were trying to figure out how to walk the American way. Simple cultural make up, mostly white, everybody else something less.

The Terrible Twos(1861-1890) Our first fight (the Civil War) divided us but we also had a huge growth spurt westward. No, No, No, We still only wanna be Caucasian. Why can't we have it? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Bang!

Early Teens (1900-1945) Massive growth and successfully ruling the world. (Is this not how pre-teens are in the house.) Suddenly it wasn't just about white and non-white, our whole body was changing; the color, the language, the religion.

The Rebellious Years (1955-1985) James Dean, Hippies, Standing up to authority and seeing what we are capable of followed by an experimental period of mind-alteration, followed by a slow rehabilitation phase. Now that our body had changed, what could we do with it?

The 21st Birthday (1990-2010) Who are we anyway? Its a little hazy and I hope we don't wake up with a headache tomorrow asking ourselves "What happened last night?"

No doubt about it, we are in the midst of another great transition in the American life and just as the liberal young hippies stood up against the government's wartime policies, a Tea Party movement of conservative anarchists is railing against our government's fiscal policies. And during both era's, most of these movements and counter movements stemmed from fear of the unknown and confusion about who we are becoming as a country and this leads to anger, an emotion we have seen in every transition in America.

So lets not be afraid of who we are, or who we become. Lets put that anger aside, its never solved any problems anyway. We should embrace the cultural changes and wake up from our 21st Birthday party feeling refreshed (not hungover) with a new plan and a new vision for America.

When America hits her 30's, I hope we can view this time as a period of growth and self-understanding. Its a coming of age as a multicultural society founded on common principles, not common race, heritage, religion, or language. Then we can get back to the business of America: the pursuit of happiness for ALL individuals.

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