No end in sight
Four years ago, I remember reading in the end-of-the-year high school paper, where the writers — out of obligation — try to create the sense of satisfaction by recalling all the corny things the graduating class could only have remembered because they specifically attended that high school. Now, I am sure my current peers will do it again, possibly boasting about their resilience in face of the so-called "RU screw" or some other campus-wide inside joke in the days to come in speeches and letters.
While we all will possess unique memories that only University students can acquire, I still think the greatest memory will be shared by graduating students across the country and possibly the world. We were not yet born to witness the fall of fascism, the peak of the civil rights movement and mankind's first steps in space. Most of us do not possess vivid memories of live broadcasts of the collapse of the Berlin Wall. We have not witnessed the great history that a certain president-elect referred to in Grant Park when telling Ann Nixon Cooper's story.
But we will graduate knowing that it was us; we were the ones who were young when the nation finally put the politics of fear, swiftboating, faux populism, superficiality and outright hatred-mongering on trial and saw the United States make the right verdict. We ultimately saw a decent but imperfect man sworn in as the nation's chief executive.
If people today try to over-narrate the history of the country in terms of slavery, immigration, civil rights and social progress, it may be too tempting to end the American storybook with the image of President Barack Obama lifting up his right hand and taking the oath of office.
And the American people lived happily ever after.
We all know this will not be the case. We can seriously thank Chief Justice John Roberts for injecting human fallibility into the climax of a contrived pseudo-event. Today's news will be tomorrow's history, yet we are all flesh and blood in uncertain times. Clearly, the news media that permitted Washington to screw the American people over the past decade shows no sign of improving its annoying habits in crappy reporting in the last hundred days or so. The latest reports of the death tolls in the nation's two wars are another grave reminder of the present reality. The current graduating class across the country now sees a less optimistic outlook in search of a stable career in the current recession.
I do hope that the nation, under new leadership, will overcome these challenges. After witnessing what plagued our political culture in the past decade, I am thankful that we elected a person who is more intelligent and empathetic than less. Yet I am not optimistic enough to believe the past decade will be the worst we will see in the decades to come. Tragedy transformed one previous presidency and the nation, and ideals like freedom, liberty, patriotism and nationhood were bent for the political will of the few.
Even with the current leadership, it would be naïve to believe it cannot happen again in our lifetimes. Freedom is not slogan. Freedom is not accepting the convenient falsity. Freedom is not the right to ignorance. Freedom is not a contest with your countrymen. Freedom is not an excuse for fear. Freedom must remain as an inalienable ideal. There is no freedom but freedom.
I thank you all for your time and your encouragement.
Roger Sheng is a Rutgers College senior majoring in political science and journalism and media studies.