As the generation that is in power changes, so do general viewpoints on issues. The dominant ideology of each decade creates interest groups, social movements and actions, meaning the most fundamental morals of the nation take on new interpretations and meanings. We have seen this shift in political spheres such as race relations, feminism and LGBTQ+ rights. And, recently, American society has started to change the way it perceives "independence." Inspired by an era of radical change and rebellion, the idea of "American independence" carriers a largely new meaning in a contemporary context, for adults and college students alike. And, the beauty of independence is that it can hold variant meanings for a wide variety of individuals.
In my opinion, independence is the suggested notion that my opportunities are ceaseless. As individuals, we all wield a share of power in implementing large-scale change. And whether we choose to exercise that power through voting, protesting or legislating, it is a privilege undoubtedly protected by the U.S. Constitution.
While my definition of independence holds an emphasis on the bounds of civic power, others embrace different meanings of the idea. Listed below are a 6 unique definitions of "American independence" in a modern context, from college students throughout the nation.
1. Tess Wagner, Marquette University
"American independence is the organized expression that have been more prominent whether at music festivals, protests, or even just comments on a Facebook page. The ability of people to come together and celebrate their differences is a beautiful thing."
2. Robby Newberry, University of California, Los Angeles
"From a worldwide perspective, the United States is far from independent. Whether we like it or not the economic and social policy of the U.S. has a profound impact on both our allies and our adversaries abroad. However, from a domestic perspective, I would argue that American independence is a nationalistic-regressive response to a changing society. This sentiment, most often seen from the far right, originates out of fear and results in policy that blatantly ignores our moral commitment as a global superpower to help other nations in need. The idea of American independence is fundamentally flawed, stemming from a fictitious viewpoint of 'America first.'"
3. Ben Norrito, State University of New York at New Paltz
"American independence is being leaders in the world. Doing what is right and helping those in need. It could also take on a populist tone and be very anti- globalism. It depends on the person."
4. Nathan Wu, Harvard University
"It is the collective pursuit of freedom from the societal chains of racism, sexism, prejudice and fear of change which have traditionally restricted the development of a healthy American society."
5. Analía Marzoratti, University of Texas, Dallas
"It's the ability to express our own ideas without infringing on other people's ability to do the same, or having the opportunity to pursue our own desires or goals and succeed or fail based on our own efforts. For us it's being able to strike out on our own after high school and choose to do whatever we want with our lives, shaping the people we want to be."
6. Kristi Matsudaira-Yee, University of California, Berkeley
"American independence is our ability as a nation to show the world that we stand by the values our country was built upon. It is our sense of strength we get from a system where although not every voice is heard, every voice has the opportunity to be heard because american history has proven that when the people speak up and take action, progress carries forward. And that idea emerged as America became an independent nation."
It is very clear that, especially to college students, there is not one coherent definition of American independence in modern society. Instead, what we observe is a generation of students willing and able to embolden our differences for the sole benefit of promoting unity and progress. Something that is essential in the current divisive nature of our political system.
Lead Image Credit: Blanca Florence via Flickr Creative Commons