By: Zachary Bynum
What is cultural change? How do we measure it? How do we quantify it? These are the big questions I want answered in my lifetime, but being a pragmatist makes me settle for something more practical- definable even. You see, this election cycle has made my understanding of this country so much more abstract than I ever thought it could be. Lately, the idea of culture has been on my mind and in terms of the US, I am still looking for something definable.No, nothing in this world is black and white, but when will we push ourselves to that place, so that we can have a better understanding of culture and how it continuously shapes our politics, our art, our systems, and our beliefs. And moving from there, when is the moment this becomes applicable? Can we define cultural change through measurements of human innovation or economic development, or is it in the subtle moments where we think about how things were compared to how they are now. I have been doing some reflecting, and I know my own perceptions and experience do not equate an empirical observation on culture, but it’s all I have, so why not.
Recently, I have noticed that there seems to be two very dominant narratives of where our country is politically, socially, and culturally. These two vastly different visions are embodied in the candidates themselves. Hillary Clinton is representative of the things this country needs to address and Donald Trump is the manifestation of backlash to this. Coming out of the Obama-era, anything seemed possible to those who constructed notions of post-racial societies and existing equality. We’ve heard the discourse around being ‘politically correct’ and ‘race-baiting.’ We have heard every defense for not addressing the realities of our country’s current and historical structures, but I think there is no turning back from here. After this election, I am sure there will be drastic shift in the way we discuss our country, but who knows what that will mean.
Should we be afraid? Absolutely not. There is a need for a retelling of the way this country has come to be, and how our politics works. But even more importantly, there needs to be a revisiting of what American culture is. To some, it is the endowed right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To some, it is the idea that you can make a better life here, and to some, that meaning has not quite shown itself yet, but I think this election will slowly move us in that direction. Although there are a great deal of salient issues this election, this really all boils down to how we want to be seen as a country. Will we continue to ignore the ways in which we have manipulated history in order to preach false narratives of exploration and innovation? Will we continue to ignore that we codify enslavement and genocide as state’s rights and Western expansion? Are we ready to say that there are so many societal inequalities that we continue to perpetuate and uphold? Will we ever not value money over those who are less fortunate and the environment as well? I don’t believe that a Clinton presidency will bring about good answers to all of these questions, but I think it will slowly start to shift the culture that has persisted for so long. Cultural change begins when thoughts and beliefs change which hopefully becomes the framework for changing the systems apart of that culture as well.
November 8th is coming and I think we all have to ask ourselves- do we want cultural stagnancy or cultural change because the former will continuously harm the world, while the latter may start to make things better. The one that we should all agree on is that It’s all #UPtoUS.