Opinion: Your Rose-tinted Nostalgia Isn’t Helping America

By Abigail Moellering

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both widely discussed and widely distrusted. It is almost impossible to have a conversation about the upcoming election without hearing someone mention how they don’t like either candidate. It’s not that I disagree, quite the contrary. Rather my issue is with the inevitable statement that follows how “The founding fathers” this or “When America was at its peak” that. Perfection is not, and never has been, a part of America’s narrative. Our presidential candidates are not significantly more evil, greedy or dishonest than any of our past leaders have been.

I’m not trying to be a pessimist. Rather, my intention is to remind everyone who is going to be voting this fall that they would do well to take a long hard look at our country’s legacy before complaining about the current state of things. George Washington was not a saint, and Ronald Reagan’s presidency was far from faultless. Whether you like Clinton or Trump or you hate them both, they are the options presented to you. It’s time that we stop complaining about the present, stop romanticizing the past, and take strides to make the differences we want to see, rather than waiting for our next president to fix/ruin the country.

America needs change. This country is riddled with racism, brutality, discrimination, ethnocentrism, and possibly worst of all, apathy towards all of those issues. However, these are not new issues. America’s lack of willingness to acknowledge these issues has never contributed towards eliminating them from our history.

If we don’t believe that Trump or Clinton can solve our nation’s problems, then do we not have a moral obligation to hit the ground running and start working towards fixing them ourselves? Sure, it would be great to have two really amazing candidates to choose between, but we don’t, and no amount of Facebook-fighting and sullen discontent is going to change that.

American idealism is declining. A 2014 Princeton study showed that America is no longer really a Democracy, but rather an Oligarchy. This country is saturated with flaws as old as the Constitution itself. There are so many aspects that need to change. However, nothing is going to improve if the people who comprise this country don’t adamantly refuse to accept the current state of our nation.  As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him… We need not wait to see what others do.”

We are not powerless. Just as those who came before us looked at their circumstances with discontent, we must do something about it if we want those circumstances to change. If we are to believe our country has a future, we must act as such.