My dad spends an inordinate amount of time reading about the decay of a civilized German society in the lead-up to World War II. I was never sure why he searched for answers about something that happened a century ago. I felt protection in the safety net of time and a sensibility in the America I knew. In my mind this could never happen here. But now I’m not so sure.
America has changed recently. That’s abundantly clear. My dad had me read a book, On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder, which discussed how authoritarianism can overtake even the most developed and stable societies. On January 6th, I was on a Zoom call with my class. We all tried to focus on our teacher, despite the broadcasting of the insurrection. Even though we weren’t physically together, there was a collective angst. It was palpable and discouraging. The saddest part of this tumultuous day was, in fact, my absence of confusion. I knew how we got here, and I feared that the structure and foundation of our government were threatened. If people don’t trust our democratic system, it invalidates our votes and our government. Moreover, if we violate the most basic procedures for expressing grievances, then any future societal issue can be met with violence and anarchy.
Although it’s a frightening time, I remain optimistic about our country’s future, and I’m especially grateful for the opportunity to attend college at this time. I want to study how the government protects free speech but simultaneously protects the institutions and values we assume are collectively “American.”
Recognizing that no side is ever all wrong or all right, I want to learn about what divides us. I want to gain a better understanding and appreciation of other perspectives and learn how to bridge these gaps. When I was younger, I naively assumed that our leaders were elected based on expertise, experience, and character. These traits aren’t prioritized anymore. It seems many vote based on anger, dissatisfaction, and tribalism. Perhaps they feel left behind, resentful, or religiously persecuted. But the truth is that few seek compromise or consider different perspectives. This is deeply unfortunate and concerning, because the government is the intersection that connects all aspects of society. Understanding how hyper-polarization threatens governmental institutions requires a deep knowledge of government and politics and also other disciplines that explain people’s motivations.
This is why I want to pursue my studies at…….