Americans from across the political spectrum feel deep fear and uncertainty about the state of our union. There are real challenges that are affecting many of our lives, and most of us are nervous about what tomorrow will look like. We do not have to look much further than Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene’s recent tweet calling for a national divorce.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have heard secessionist rhetoric from elected officials, and it certainly is not rhetoric confined to one party. As a young person leading the largest student movement bridging our political differences, I have two things to say to MTG and anyone else calling for a national divorce.
First, not only is this rhetoric out of touch with what most Americans think, but it fundamentally lacks perspective about the American experiment. America is not easy. It is difficult. We are trying to realize, at scale, the world’s first successful multi-racial democracy that offers life, liberty, and opportunity to all those who choose to live within it. And we are trying to achieve this at a time of unprecedented change and upheaval.
By 2045, the United States will be one of the largest and most diverse democracies in the history of democracies. Over the next few decades, we will experience economic disruption and changes to our ways of life like we have never seen before. Finally, social media and technology have fundamentally changed how we interact with each other as people.
Combine the scale and unprecedented nature of these demographic, economic, and technological challenges with the aspiration of a self-governing society that guarantees all life, liberty, and opportunity. And you have, what I believe to be, the most ambitious experiment in the history of humanity.
An ambitious experiment like ours guarantees a lot of challenges, tumult, and uncertainty. And yet, as Thomas Paine once said, “The cause of America…is the cause of [human]kind” because of its audacious and ambitious vision. Or in Dr. King’s words, we have embarked on an endeavor to realize the Beloved Community, which represents the ideal society.
When we contextualize our American moment with the scale of history, MTG’s tweet is not only an expected sentiment, but it should be disregarded because it lacks the perspective required to take our moment in stride and to persevere in the face of cynicism. Giving up on our experiment is fundamentally un-American and an admission that the ideal is not worth pursuing. If the “cause of humankind” or the Beloved Community were that easy to achieve, it would have been done already.
The second thing I would say to anyone giving in to secessionist rhetoric is that calling for a national divorce lacks imagination. In order to achieve the ideal, we must widen the aperture of what is possible.
In 2026, our country will celebrate its 250th birthday. While this may feel like a long time, in fact, we are very young. In the context of civilizations, 250 years is chapter 2, maybe chapter 3. Athenian democracy lasted for 400 years. The Roman Republic lasted for 500 years. The Chinese empire lasted for 1800 years. We must remind ourselves that we are not at the end of the American story. We are at the beginning.
And by recognizing that we are just in chapter 2, maybe chapter 3 of the American story, we can see that this challenging moment is not the end, but simply another rigorous test of the American experiment and our resolve. We the people can determine whether we meet this moment of opportunity with urgency, passion, and purpose because we are not just inheritors of this experiment, we lead this experiment.
Leading this experiment means imagining new institutions, reweaving our civic fabric, and normalizing healthy conflict while condemning needless tribalism. It means positioning society to benefit from our technological advancements. And most importantly, it requires us to inculcate hope about America at a time when pessimism and cynicism sell.
Of course, there is real and justified cause for anger, frustration, and pessimism. In some ways, I can even understand why leaders like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene lack perspective and imagination. Perspective and imagination require pushing beyond our echo chambers and talking to a wide swath of the American public.
If someone told me there is a society of 330 million from all walks of life living in complete harmony and bliss, I’d be skeptical to say the least. And yet, that is America. We are imperfect because we are aspiring toward the ideal. We are ambitious because we fail. We are “the cause of [human]kind” because we are humanity’s best attempt at bridging the gap between the ideal and the real.