I am so caught up in college life, the ebb and flow of politics (the greatest horse race ever invented), and the ever-important drama of daily life, that I rarely take the time to reflect on the most powerful force of all - time.
On News Years Day, however, I am inspired by - in awe of, in fact - where America is today. Seventy years ago, American soldiers died fighting for freedom in Europe. They defeated a fascist regime intent on mass genocide - of Jews, gays, and other who didn't fit their mold of what humans should look like. Sixty years ago, Chairman Mao led China into the Great Leap Forward, a disastrous plan that killed nearly 45 million people in four years. And fifty years ago, billions were trapped in the communist Soviet Union; a country where poverty was rampant, freedom was non-existent and where oligarchs created empires on the backs of the masses.
In the face of these tragedies, it is shocking how unprecedented our freedom is today. We live in the greatest country that has ever existed - a country founded on the idea that the people rule it. Our immigration debate is alive because America is still a beacon of hope in this world; we're a country that is so free that the 'huddled masses' from all across the world still see America as the ultimate destination. And in the face of the adversity and strife of 2015, America is still a free country where social protests run free and armed gunmen do not stifle new ideas.
This is remarkable. For thousands of years, power has universally corrupted our leaders. Men with guns have always used their power to enslave the masses, to enforce their will on the people. And there have always been volunteers, ready and willing to stand with the dictators and enforce their will. Human nature is so insecure that people have always turned against their neighbors, preferring authority and external validation to fairness and justice.
In weapons, humans found a tool that enabled the powerful to control the many. Our history is a cycle of violence and reaction, a natural yearning for freedom. The most powerful tool of all, however, is time. We think our lives are short, but the winds of history are powerful. They bring sweeping change quickly. And usually, this is for evil; it is much simpler to enslave a population than to meet its needs. And yet today, we have defied time. We have defied history.
We live in a country where we worry about a bunch of clowns marching around the country hoping to satisfy our desires. Where we inevitably hold the cards and politicians and leaders serve us. Where our biggest fear is that in a free and democratic election, we'll elect the wrong leader.
Surely, nothing is perfect. I'll be the first to go on about the need to reign in on special interests, for reasonable restrictions on guns, criminal justice reform, and full equality for women and minorities. But I think, especially on college campuses, it's really easy to lose sight of the magnitude of history.
After all, by the time we were born, there was no Soviet Union, no Communist China, and no Nazi Germany. Instead, capitalism is stronger than ever before and freedom has spread across the world at lightening speed. Our gravest enemies are terrorists, people who enslave themselves in a battle of pure evil, hoping to defeat the freedom we have so painstakingly created for ourselves.
No, in college we tend to forget these things. We are swept up in the moment. And that's a good thing. We're living our lives. We're writing the next page. We're taking the next step in a long battle for freedom. Each day for us is an opportunity to laugh, study, eat and sleep.
But it's also a fragment of time, a piece of history, an opportunity to slowly inch forward in this larger story about a world dominated by evil, where the few controlled the many. We are part of this greater narrative of freedom, in which a group of men had the foresight to understand that people ought to control their own lives.
We can and should reinterpret these ideas to enfranchise new groups, spread equality and level the playing field. But especially as young people begin to enforce new speech codes, as political correctness becomes a rallying cry, and talk of limiting free speech becomes oddly popular, it's important that we remember how lucky we are to live in America. It's important to remember how fragile freedom is and hard it was to achieve. It's important to remember that our freedom was won on the backs of men and women who lived and died so that this would be possible.
So for 2016, I'll remember my own resolutions and consider how I can be a kinder person, friend, son and brother but I'll also reflect on the thousands of years that have come before this one. How devastating a past we've escaped and how precious a time we live in.