What Is America?

by Esmat

The last paper that I had to write for my English class’s final last week was titled – “What is America?”. It was not out of the blue that I had been given this assignment, for the past few weeks or so there was a series of talks at Andover on different topics that emphasized how through the course of history, America has poorly treated its minorities. So it was quite natural that at the end it was going to come to this question.

Now more than ever, those series of talks comes in handy to think of a person like Donald Trump and how he likes to follow where the past leads; the past in which diversity was not welcomed, a past in which white people saw themselves as the best and others as inferior, as the past in which Japanese were put into internment camps and so on and so forth. As far as I have seen, people here at Andover were mourning the defeat of Hillary Clinton, and are quite terrified at the thought of someone like Donald Trump being the president. As a friend once said, “There is an aura of despair around the campus…”. That is because Andover is an idealistic place with some idealistic “values”, that overwhelmingly supported an idealistic person such as Clinton, also Andover is overwhelmingly populated by liberals.

Coming back to the question of “What is America?” : I don’t know. America is so many things at the same time. A truly unique place in its nature. A place that has had many twists and turns, and is still having that once in a while through history. I have not seen much of America, as much as I would like to claim that. But to my knowledge, America is a place of opportunities in every possible way. Another friend said, “Back home, if you did something wrong or if you made a grave mistake, your life would be over, but over here, you can change yourself in seven-different-shapes and America would still give you a chance to find success.” In a lot of ways, I agree with that, but still, it is not a perfect definition of what really America is. One has to make the mistake of generalization to answer a question like this.

Let’s start with the people and how they live. I have seen how the rich live here, I have seen how the poor live here. I have seen how people think about happiness, I have seen how people make room for that in other’s expenses. I have seen a lot in America. What perplexes me the most about America is how everyone is constantly trying to be happy or make other people around themselves happy, and sometimes or most of the times at the cost of others. It is quite inherent in human’s nature to pursue happiness but the things that Americans do to pursue is just crazy, at least it is quite shocking to me. And again, it is because they have the opportunity to do so. I feel that people here live in an illusion of happiness, they make fake opportunities to be happy, to feel that way. Obviously, commercialism and consumerism are of one of the big factors of that. America is truly obsessed with happiness, and they are doing whatever they can to pursue it as much as they can. Why would I not like this? Why, me, a human being, who must naturally pursue happiness, not praise this such wonderful extreme pursuit? Because I do not think that humans are made to pursue happiness all the time, but I do think that humans inherently deserve struggles and pain. I find happiness and it’s constant pursuit as wishful thinking mode of thinking about life and its meaning. Humans in every way are looking to further and advance their interests, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I do not think that there is anything wrong with being selfish, some of the times it actually helps the society. With those people doing whatever they can to find success, they are making the economy or other aspects of a society successful. The problem, however, is corruption. I think that’s what causes the problems, and especially in a place like America, that has been proven again and again. Don’t get me wrong, I do find certain types of selfishness egregious. You see, Americans (and maybe other humans as well), think that life is sort of a progress bar. They make every effort to move the progress bar. Throughout the course of history, America has struggled with this problem. Corruption of power. Corruption of money. Corruption of almost everything that one can think of. The crux of the problem remains corruption. Why I am not optimistic that it’s going to be over is because I think corruption or certain kinds of selfishness is inherent in humans. I like to think of this scenario very pragmatically and reasonably, and what I have come to know is that – fairness is relative to the time, what was considered “fair” hundreds of years ago is now, interestingly, considered unfair. For such reasons I don’t believe there is such a thing as “fair” in this world. When was the last time that there was fairness in this world? What is happening in Aleppo is not fair. What is happening in Afghanistan is not fair. What happened during World War II is not fair. What happened in Rwanda is not fair. Yet, the misery, the constant struggle for fairness exists, and it shall exist.

America is going through a lot of changes right now. A showman, a very dangerous showman is now the president-elect. In my philosophy class, the last term, which was “Responses to the Holocaust”, taught by the great Mr. Housiaux – the day after the election, he said that a history teacher had told him that she “is seeing parallels between the Hitler Germany and Trump’s America…”. I completely agree with that and I expressed myself such during the class. There were some nods and some sad looks around the table that day. But a friend said that yes as everyone keeps thinking that there are certain similarities between Trump and Hitler, then many presidents and leaders think alike and share many similarities and yet they are not the entirely the same as Hitler or Mussolini or Stalin. I have to disagree with my friend, it is those sentiments he is sharing that gives rise to the hatred and racism. For many international students, Trump rising to the presidency is a nightmare. This idea of us foreigners that can just leave and go back where they came from is just ridiculous to justify the real fear that we international students have. The real fear being is that Trump will make certain changes that will not allow any of to go anywhere. To play the devil’s advocate, though, I will say that Clinton being there will also not make things nice.

In summation, I will say that America is an interesting place. Time will tell if America will stand for what it often claims itself to be, a place of opportunity for its diverse people.