Admittedly, I’m the type of guy who’s so republican you could amputate my left foot, hide my crutches, and I’d still find a way to lean right. You can imagine the fun my constituents at NPR have been having as they continually remind me (predominantly in jest) of what is, in my mind at least, the most forgettable second Tuesday of November in the last 12 years. I call it that in a semi-serious tone, because I recognize the current congress and administration have not handled “political happenings” perfectly, and that some sort of change is not completely out of order. What happened Tuesday, however, was not exactly what I had in mind. So I’ve spent most of the last week trying to drown my sorrows, seeking solace from the never-ending well of comfort and wisdom that is the country music genre, and, true to country form, I got to thinking…
Maybe it was the incessant jabs from co-workers, maybe it was working the all-night election coverage, or maybe it was spending Veterans Day in Washington. Whatever the case, I’ve had America on my mind a lot lately. Now, I don’t have a Ph.D. in American history (I have a B.A. in English), and I haven’t read much of Sam Johnson, Thomas Jefferson, or any other political thinker. I wasn’t raised on C-SPAN, and I only subscribe to one newspaper. I don’t know the name of every representative in congress (though I do know the name of mine) and I can’t sing my state song from memory. There is a lot more that I don’t know about politics than I do. Indeed, I may not be the most “informed” American, but I can tell you this much—I am just as American as the most “informed” among us.
If I understand the constitution correctly, that means my opinion is no less or more important than the next American’s. It simply is what it is, and that is the beauty of it. It also occurs to me that being American means, among other things, that while I may never rise to prominence and I might never amass personal fortune, I have just as much responsibility for the fate of this nation as those who do. I have as much of an opportunity to speak out, and speak up for what I believe in, as anyone else. That’s the power of a vote. This past week Americans in all 50 states spoke, and the resultant change was substantial. Was the desire for change unanimous? The close margins of victory in several races leave that question open to debate, but one thing is certain—the system still works. The key to a successful nation is an active, involved citizenry. Americans called for change, and they got it. To everyone who exercised his or her right to vote I say thank you for speaking up, offer this reminder: just because the election is over, doesn’t mean you should cease to be heard.
I’m quickly running out of column inches, and I could go on and on about what it means to be American, but I will end, for now, with this (and what I’m about to say applies across party lines): Call me naïve, but I believe America is made up of people not that different from myself, and I believe the overwhelming majority of those people are good at heart. I believe most of us have the same goals, and we honestly want what we believe is best for our country. I think we witnessed that last Tuesday, and while I don’t completely agree with the outcome, I’m okay with it because that’s the way America works. I’ve had America on my mind a lot lately, and I think we’re gonna be okay.
-Josh Figueira, National Desk