The Truest Mark of Greatness

There’s this scene that I’m sure you’ve seen from the very beginning of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom where Jeff Daniels’ character, a moderate news anchor, reluctantly expresses the reasons as to why America is no longer the greatest country in the world (if it ever actually was), despite what we might believe. He lists off the reasons: we’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science—so on and so forth. It’s a sobering, if not entirely surprising, declaration that we’re often too afraid to admit. We do a lot of things incorrectly—we have a lot wrong with us. 

But one of the things we do have going, which is something we take for granted, is our ability to disagree, to argue, and to protest. We don’t think about it because most of us have never known any differently. We can fight, we can yell, we can hate one another for no other reason than our political alignment. We can dislike our mayor, write a letter to our congressman, even type up a blog post about who wasn’t then but is certainly now the president of the United States—all without consternation. And, yeah, when we don’t agree, it can be frustrating. It can be downright aggravating to be argued with, to share a viewpoint you believe to be true, you know to be true, only to be fought against with plugged ears and obscenities screamed at you over the internet (or in person). But it’s a right that we have and one we should never hope to lose.

Two days ago, President Donald Trump was elected into office and as many words as I may have to say about that fact, it happened. The following day, millions of women all over the world (and some men too) marched their streets in protest of his inauguration to the seat of the presidency. I believe this to be extraordinary.

This isn’t a political post. This isn’t meant to delve into the reasons as to why the protests should or should not have happened, but rather, this is a celebration of the fact that we have the opportunity to protest at all, that the women yesterday even had the ability to march in opposition of their government. Some may disagree with whether or not they had reason enough to do so, but our right to have an opinion of our government that isn’t always agreeable, to write things that aren’t always positive, is one that we should cherish, because there are countries that are not afforded that right, ones where dissension is met swiftly with death even if the dissension is small. It may seem like I’m saying that because I’m on the side that was marching, but there were plenty that protested President Obama as well during his time in office. Some of the words said about him were horrible—people wanted him dead—but those people were able to express their opinions because they lived here: America.

I’ve seen a lot over the past couple of weeks about how incredible it is that our current President has been taking steps to subvert the media, to cry foul when something is published he doesn’t agree with, and to disparage the individuals writing about him.  But this is a dangerous place to be, because one of the things that makes us great is our ability to have these opinions. We are fortunate to be either Republican or Democrat, to take the same issue and interpret it differently. Sure, it can be frustrating—infuriating even—but it’s a frustration I want to continue to have.  The second we are unable to disagree with each other, to stand up and protest something we don’t believe in, is the same second that we lose one of the things that actually makes us great.

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