OPINION: America’s crisis of hope


Tyler Merbler

The January 6th Capitol attack. Featured image “2021 storming of the United States Capitol” by Tyler Merbler is licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic.

Justin Farris

America is in trouble. We’re living in a time where distrust in the American government and electoral system is high and rising. We’ve walked the line between an attempted coup and open conflict over racial injustice. Our last president was extremely divisive, and our current one is proving ineffective at healing that rift. Put simply, people are losing trust in the government from top to bottom. If this continues, it could spell disaster for the country. 

What happens to a nation when the next generation doesn’t really believe in it? We’re not to that point, I’d like to clarify, but symptoms of it can be seen plainly around the US. Look at the passionate anger of Greta Thunberg- not herself an American, but whose ideas many from my generation agree with. Look at the teenagers out in the street for Black Lives Matter protests. If you want an example close to home, see how many of your classmates plan on voting. That question was asked in one of my classes, and the result surprised me. More people than expected didn’t believe their opinion mattered on a large scale.

This isn’t to claim that every American teen is doom and gloom, believing that nothing from the United States can be salvaged. That’s extreme and inaccurate. Rather, we are very slowly drifting in that direction. In my English class specifically focused around American identity, several people said, when prompted, that America was a corrupted idea from the start and we needed to restart with a new government. By far most of us were at least skeptical as to whether our current system could be fixed. 

If we look at the state of America, it’s easy to see why we’re upset. In the middle of a global pandemic, we can’t stop fighting each other. The dominant political parties seem dead set in their ways, and it often seems like politicians care more about winning than actually helping the country or their voters. Teens are deathly afraid that they won’t be able to afford college, and thus, ever afford a comfortable life, because the costs of college are high and only ever rising. They’re afraid of medical fees, because they know that without expensive insurance, they can never afford a serious hospital visit. African Americans, especially men, have to contend with the picture our culture has painted of them- the picture of a possible threat. Minorities of all kinds are experiencing increased targeted violence, even as the United States becomes a progressively less homogenous country. Urban America treats rural America like idiots, and rural America feels left behind and disposed of. 

Teens are bleeding hope because they see a country too busy arguing to actually address its problems. So what can we do about it? How do we combat the sinking hopes of a generation? The simplest method would be to talk to people. That might sound very basic and possibly even insulting, but here’s what I mean: nobody likes seeing the country in a stalemate. None of us like seeing a government where nothing gets done. Unfortunately, the way things are right now, politicians are unlikely to stop posturing and start working on their own. For us, on the individual level, a good starting point is to find someone you disagree with, and sincerely hear them out. Note that I don’t mean a violent extremist like a Neo-Nazi- unless you have professional background in psychology or know the person personally, trying to engage with violent extremists is usually ineffective and possibly dangerous. If you can, however, find someone arguing in good faith, you might find out more than you expected, and might even come to understand their ideas better. Over all of that, we need to be willing to change, and to admit when we are wrong. 

Featured image “2021 storming of the United States Capitol” by Tyler Merbler is licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic.