Living up to democracy

Theresa Montgomery

We know who we are not in times of peace, but when that peace is threatened.

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, America lost its confidence in the buffering oceans that had provided us with a sense of invulnerability.

We grieved. In our grief, we lashed out. Not at those who attacked us – not a single hijacker involved in the hijackings was Iraqi – but vaguely, with an ineffective sense of retaliation.

We are at war with terror. Such an anonymous target leaves us unfocused, ineffectual and ill-at-ease about our place on the international stage.

In our diffused, reactive state, we want to shut down our border to the south.

Members of the National Guard are assisting in the construction of a barrier to span the length of our border with Mexico. In the name of defending our borders, of national security, we are walling out those who have no right to be here.

Shouldn’t we stop and think first?

The way it is is not the way it was, or will be.

We are a nation of immigrants, rich because of our diversity. Our dissimilarities spark creative change.

When did the line separating birthplace from opportunity in America become so clear? Such boundaries are fluid, and evolve. Every now-mainstream segment of the American population was once an outsider.

At a time when the world’s population is more fluid than ever, is this a step forward?

Real security, whether national or personal, comes from knowing who you are, what you believe, and what you will do to stand by those beliefs.

If America is to remain a leader of nations, we must be strong enough in our identity to fight for the inclusion of those whose need transcends geographic boundaries.

Our Constitution holds that every individual has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The “E Pluribus Unum” printed on every U.S. coin was placed there to remind us who we are: “Out of Many, One.”

The people flowing over our borders are driven to do so by the crushing poverty in their countries of origin. Many have unsuccessfully attempted to emigrate legally.

The solution here is greater openness, not clenched defensiveness; a freer exchange of people, ideas and resources, not a retreat to isolationism.

If we want to be a world leader, we have to live up to the courage and integrity such a position deserves.

Leadership is not given, but earned. America does not have a birthright to its position of world power. If we continue to shut some countries out while invading others, whatever authority we now hold will erode into memory.

If we want to foster democracy in the world, we need to act like it.

Theresa Montgomery is a senior newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].