Posted on May 29, 2017 | No Comments
Our Place in History

I’m writing from the birthplace of the American Revolution. Looking out at the North Bridge in Minute Men National Park, I wonder, did they know when they fired the “shot heard round the world” what was to come? What our country would come to be?

All my life I’ve lived under the assumption that American culture was on a forward trajectory. As I studied the great upheavals of the past, I naively felt removed from them. I believed that as a country, we were making progress towards acceptance and true equal rights. While I’m still hopeful that most Americans also believe in these aspirations, the political events of the last few months have shaken me to the core. I’ve come to question the idealistic dream that most Americans are striving for the same compassionate democracy.

I’ve been visiting Walden Pond a lot lately. Inspired by Henry David Thoreau, I’ve taken solace in the peace and tranquility of God’s creation. Yet, I can’t ever seem to completely escape from the truth of our own historical time. The injustice of today’s politics lingers in the back of my mind, a constant reminder that my own values are so diametrically opposed to nearly half of the people in this country. As I walk around these government owned parks, I’m reminded that the current administration would take the earth from beneath our feet and hand these lands over to commercial interests. How can it be that nature, humanity’s refuge, has come to represent all that we stand to lose?

I recently picked up Walden and in reading it was inspired by a thought: Thoreau, Emmerson, Hawthorn, all of these great American authors whom I so admire, were also standing on a historical precipice. Thoreau wrote Civil Disobedience more than a decade before the start of the Civil War. At that time, he had no way of knowing that his words would come to inspire Americans from his own time to the Civil Rights Movement to today. He died a year before Lincoln mandated the Emancipation Proclamation, meaning that he never saw the realization of his work as an abolitionist. Yet somehow, despite his deep political convictions, Thoreau managed to live a full and vibrant life. Walden overflows with the raptures of a man who lives life to the fullest. Even at the onset of one of the darkest periods in American history, a time when hope for a country where all men truly were considered equal seemed a lost cause, he maintained hope; hope in the core principles of the Constitution and hope that Americans could live up to them.

Today is a beautiful day in Concord, Massachusetts. Minute Men National Park is full to the brim with singing birds, parents pushing strollers, and even a couple taking their wedding pictures. It’s strange to think that this rolling field was once the site of a bloody battle. How differently the men who stood on this bridge hundreds of years ago must have felt. In retrospect, we know how much we owe to these Minute Men who fought for liberty, but could they ever have fathomed the far-reaching significance of their actions? Being in places like this helps me to believe that we must press on and continue to pursue what is right and ethical; who knows how much it will come to mean to future Americans.