U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!
I have been taught since grade school that America is a “melting pot,” that our nation is filled with a myriad of people, cultures, religions and heritages. While the idea behind this phrase rings true, the phrase itself has become clichéd and hackneyed. I have always taken for granted the enormous diversity that is the United States of America. We are a large nation, with so much variety in our population and our geography; however, we are still unquestionably and resolutely one country. The more I think about this, the more astounding the idea becomes.
Since the end of the Civil War, the question of secession has not seriously arisen again. Yes, the idea does come up from time to time, such as last year when Texas Governor Rick Perry floated the idea of leaving the Union; however, in my eyes, that and similar threats are little more than a shameful publicity stunt. The idea of a state or geographical region actually leaving America and forming their own nation is simply outrageous and doesn’t even cross most peoples’ minds. Despite occasional differences and disagreements among the states, everyone accepts the Union and holds it up as a universal truth.
Likewise, America is committed to settling political differences with ballots and instead of bullets. Again, this statement must be qualified, as some fringe groups threaten to militantly overthrow the government and politicians make comments about “Second Amendment remedies.” As a whole, however, the idea of a military coup or a large scale uprising and overthrow of the government is unthinkable. It is just something that isn’t part of the political culture in America. We are committed to a peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next, based on the will of the people and exercised through the ballot box.
These ideas are so thoroughly embedded in the American conscience that many times I take them for granted and forget just how incredible they are. What really helped me realize the uniqueness of our nation was looking at it in a comparative context. So many nations around the world, most of which are much smaller and more homogenous than ours, are wracked with violence and fragmentation.
Take, for example, Ireland, which has the size and population of the state of South Carolina. In ethnic and cultural terms, Ireland is pretty homogenous; the largest division in Irish society exists between Protestants and Catholics. Yet despite Ireland’s small size and relatively consistent population, it was plagued by partition-related violence for the latter half of the 20th century. Now, Ireland may not be the best country to compare to America given its markedly different history, so please don’t think that I am comparing apples to apples here, and take my argument with a grain of salt. During the intense period of violence in Ireland, the Protestant population in the north of the country chose to remain part of the United Kingdom while the Catholic population decided to become independent and join the Republic of Ireland. This division resulted in more than 3,000 deaths. Other nations all over the world have been wracked by violence as a result of societal division.
These foreign examples illustrate how incredible America really is. Even though we are large and diverse, we are dedicated to unity and peaceful transitions of power. This becomes especially meaningful when I keep in mind that smaller nations than all around the world have terrible problems with partition and violence. So say what you will about America, but this integral part of our nation is something that should be highly valued and never taken for granted.