By Emma Victoria
Third Place Essay
In the series of current events America is facing, it seems as the ‘United States of America’ has become the ‘Divided States of America.’ Through many actions, protests, and violent attacks, the American people have created an invisible boundary between themselves, one that wasn’t there before. Many say that if we, as citizens, continue to separate ourselves and divide instead of uniting, this nation’s soul and spirit will change. However, unity may not be as straightforward as it once was. In the past, unity has taken the shape of fighting as a nation in wars, declaring independence, and ending slavery, all showcasing the result of a country with united citizens. But for 21st century Americans, there is no war to be fought; no ‘evil force’ to be destroyed. So what does unity look like? Unity is gathering and working together as one nation rather than individual peoples and respecting each other despite differences in opinions, traditions, beliefs, or culture.
As 21st century Americans, we need to unite as one and work together towards a common goal instead of pursuing individual ideas and opinions. As of the moment, America has seemingly split down the middle. Each side has its own set of views and beliefs, which leads to arguments and disagreements between the two. In order to be one step closer to unity, it is essential to recall the meaning and ideas behind our nation, as “the flag [America] is not just one of the many political points of view. Rather, the flag is a symbol of our national unity.” (Adrian Cronauer) Putting aside political beliefs and practices, all citizens are united as one nation; America. As Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” If we can put aside our differences and work together as a nation, we will accomplish much more than working alone. It is also important to remember what ultimately unites Americans. If not similarities in beliefs, then what? As Condoleezza Rice states, “the essence of America — that which really unites us — is not ethnicity, or nationality or religion — it is an idea — and what an idea it is: That you can come from humble circumstances and do great things.” This is more commonly known as the ‘American Dream,’ which does not originate from background and beginnings, but rather, “The American dream comes from opportunity. The opportunity comes from our founding principles, our core values that are held together and protected by the Constitution. Those ideas are neither Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal, white, or black. Those are American ideologies.” (Ted Yoho)
Another common misconception about unity is that the only people who can unite are the ones who share the same set of ethics or morals. We do not have to think unanimously or have the same values to be united. Rather, we should connect and unite through love and compassion. It is nearly impossible to form unity based on similarities in practices such as religion and politics. Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs and culture; because of the mass level of diversity in America, there are too many different worldviews. But “even if a unity of faith is not possible, a unity of love is.” (Hans Urs von Balthasar). Love and compassion are a common ground for all citizens of America, making it a perfect “platform” to unite everybody.
Similarly, we must not rashly judge others’ opinions; rather, we should seek to understand their perspectives. Respecting others isn’t always easy as it sounds, but it plays a key role in unity. As Americans, instead of simply jumping to conclusions, we need to put effort into hearing what others want to say and “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” (Stephen Covey). Everybody, regardless of age or background, is entitled to their own opinion and should be respected. Making efforts to reach out and understand somebody else’s perspective is not an act of “treason” towards one’s own beliefs; it’s simply seeking to understand and respect others and their opinions. As Herbert Henry Lemerelytates states, “[one] must respect the opinions of others even if [one] disagree with them.” Doing so can widen one’s perspective and allow them to see things from a different point of view.
As America evolves, there is more diversity on our streets; and diversity brings fresh perspectives and ideas. Theoretically, this should lead the way to innovation and insightful discussion. Still, as time has shown, a lack of tolerance and respect for these new people and their opinions can lead to feuds and disputes. This is evident in the ‘Gen Z’ age group, where ‘cancel culture’, or verbally attacking people for their differences in beliefs has become increasingly popular. The important thing to remember is that everybody deserves respect. Allowing others to explain the reasoning behind their ideas will surely help build a better sense of unity for the entire nation.
The idea of unity is abstract and can take many forms for 21st century Americans, but the underlying goal is the same; to unite as one nation instead of divided peoples. Unity has undoubtedly changed its appearance throughout history; it may be hard for Americans to understand or achieve, as the main problems the country is facing today root from internal rather than external causes, as seen by previous events. But by respecting others and seeking to understand their perspective, and learning to put ones’ ideas and beliefs aside to work as a nation towards a single goal, we are one step closer to a better, unified nation.
Emma Victoria is a fifteen-year-old sophomore living on the west coast. She is the author of two published books and is currently working on her next release, a fantasy trilogy. She also loves serving the community, and is the founder of ‘The Young Expressionists,’ a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring young students. She is also the co-founder of Quillmates, an online writer’s community set to be launched in 2021. You can find her on Instagram @emmavictoriawrites, or at her website at www.emmavictoriawrites.com.