Crying Over Fictional Triumphs in Democracy

I have a confession to make. Okay… I often cry when I watch the West Wing. Well, not so much cry, it is more the feeling you get when you have something in both of your eyes. I am such a believer in American democracy that, whenever a bill is passed in the show, it just turns on the water works. So, when I discovered The Newsroom (also by Aaron Sorkin) last year, I giggled out of pure anticipation.

I re-watched the first season of the Newsroom over the past couple of months and have found myself replaying the opening scene over and over in my head. For those who are unfamiliar with the clip, a girl asks a panel of news broadcasters why America is the best country in the world. Jeff Daniels (the apathetic, Republican moderate) explodes into passionate, factual prose about why America is not the best country in the world, and that the millennial is the worst generation in American history. However, the most important part comes at the end of his speech when he says that America may not be the best in the world, but it has the capacity to become the best.

The problem that he recognizes is one I have spent a lot of time reading about this year. In my reading about economic and social inequality in America, I have learned that social mobility is becoming more difficult to achieve, and that the inequality that exists in our country is so deeply rooted, that people born into the lower economic classes of society will most likely stay there. More importantly, as a member of the military, I have learned that our public education system is the foundation of our national security, and that a failing education system is corroding away economic mobility and the ability to achieve the American Dream.

As I have traveled in more equal countries, I have seen strong public education systems and observed where countries are pioneering new models. There is one thing that I have not seen or witnessed in my conversations in Ireland or elsewhere in Europe, and that is the intangible ideal of citizenship and all that it encompasses. There is something remarkable about America and its democratic ideals that make you believe that citizenship isn’t just a word, but rather a belief. It is a belief that inspires civic activism that will drive America to improve. It is this pure sense of patriotism that makes me believe that America could be the greatest country in the world.

There is part of the Newsroom clip that I regard as complete and utter fallacy. Jeff Daniel’s character claims that the millennial generation is the worst in American history. I vehemently challenge this assertion for the sole reason that I know the people of my generation. For so long, I have been surrounded by people who wish to make a difference in this world. These people that I have come to know have expressed the most pure and patriotic sentiments about helping people and improving our country. So before we get labeled, “as the worst generation,” I implore you to read what twenty-somethings are writing, to listen to their vision for America, and ask yourself if these young people embody what it truly means to be American.

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