I am a male. I am American by birth, from Texas, specifically Midland. I am left handed, blue eyed, white, Irish/Danish by descent. I align politically conservative, more precisely constitutionally conservative, though I am registered Republican. I am average height/weight, listen to nearly all genres though I prefer traditional country, truthfully traditional anything because I have an affinity for the classics. I am an avid reader, I work at a golf course where I help run the department and give lessons. I enjoy watching sports, I cheer for the Cowboys, Rangers, Mavs, and Liverpool. Last December I graduated from Texas A&M University. Most of you reading this already knew all of this about me, and I’m sure at some point all of you that read this deviated from myself on at least one of my attributes because as milk toast as I sometimes consider myself, there is still just one of me so no one will align with me 100% of the time. For some it may have been my political beliefs, others my gender, some of you may disagree with my sports teams. But, were you to ask me about myself, one of the first things I would tell you is I’m an Aggie. My Aggie ring is the first thing I put on in the morning, and when I’m out in public I find myself scanning the right hands of those around me for a kinsman, a fellow Ag. The old Aggie adage of, “from the outside looking in you can’t understand it,” has never rang more true, as those who did not graduate from Texas A&M can’t understand not only why I pride that little piece of gold on my hand so much, but also why every single aspect of being an Aggie is wholeheartedly accepted and enthusiastically participated in. It is this enthusiasm that should not only be participated in, but emulated.
where Texas A&M has overwhelmingly succeeded in its creation of an attractive identity to adhere one’s self to, the United States government has failed considerably
At a school of more than 50,000 students, harmonious interaction is surely a top priority among the administration, and what better way to achieve that than to give them a positive identity they can ascribe to. This is done so each and every semester with New Student Conferences, Fish Camp, FLO’s and SLO’s, Midnight Yell, Silver Taps, Muster, Ring Day, Big Event, Elephant Walk, Ring Dance, and many more events and activities all designed to welcome and remind students that they belong to more than just a school. Though the specifics of each event are different, the overall procedural premise and function is relatively the same. At the heart of all of these is the essential message that Texas A&M is an overwhelmingly positive place to attend, and that members of this university are more than just students in both the eyes of the administration and one another. I use the term members quite purposefully, because Texas A&M is also careful to distinguish members from nonmembers through procedures like wildcats, yells, and of course the Aggie Ring. What, then, is the point of all of this rehashing of the cult like environment at Texas A&M? To illustrate that where Texas A&M has overwhelmingly succeeded in its creation of an attractive identity to adhere one’s self to, the United States government has failed considerably. While A&M boasts increased enrollment year after year, and expansion into new programs and industries, the United States houses a population with obvious and dangerous polarizing differences.
We are at a time in the United States when every topic is my flag boy and your flag boy, where it’s “team this,” “team that,” and the most minute of choices are exaggerated to national election levels. Just look at the hysteria created by any product company that is trying to launch a new flavor of something. Arguments are encouraged, disagreements are hyped to near physical altercation levels, and consumers are flooded with an Us versus Them mentality in order to drive home the consumer public’s passion. I believe this is in no small part to how The Internet has changed our lives. Harper Lee once wrote that, “People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for,” and this has never been more true. As a society we so often shroud ourselves with only that which we find favorable, to a point that now throughout our college campuses there exists a growing opinion that one ought to be institutionally protected from that which might be found disagreeable with their beliefs, so that differences are now conflated to the point of offensive, and the purveyors of those differences are to be treated as hostile to our very existence. I am not so naive to believe that it is possible to reverse human nature, especially when with such little effort one can find almost infinite affirmations of their opinions, be they true or not. Rather, I believe it is our job to recognize the scope of the world we live in, recognize the differences of those around us, sometimes in as small of a setting as our own neighborhood, and understand that in a country of over 300 million people it is impossible to operate a homogeneous society. Call it nationalism, call it American exceptionalism, call it whatever you want, but it is high time we as citizens prioritize a unification of this country, one that doesn’t require the expulsion of everyone deemed outsiders. Jimmy Fallon put it so eloquently in his monologue on the Orlando shooting.
Today’s cultural climate feels more like a house full of random roommates rather than a single country of citizens
To do so we must combat this selfish bubble mentality plaguing us all. There exists on both sides of the political spectrum a belief that the world eagerly awaits our ideological guidance, if only our opponents would get the hell out of the way and let us run it right. This is evidenced through progressive social coercion done so under the guise of justice, where a minority of the populace becomes hellbent on ramming through any sort of change possible, solely because they have become so fanatical in their quest to force the world into the lens they’ve deemed appropriate. Likewise, though much more obvious since the election of President Obama, and with the candidacy of Donald Trump, the right side has been harboring a latent demographic of the “silent majority” as they have affectionately named themselves. These people express a desire for status quo, believing that social static best serves the country, and any attempt to institute change is a direct assault on their way of life. In reality, neither side is a majority, neither side is right in their intent to steamroll their agenda down the streets of the unwilling, and neither side has been capable of accomplishing much of what they love to scream at people in person and especially over the Internet. Both believe the American identity is the problem, yet neither is willing to acquiesce that their version of identity is not perfect. For the progressives, it is about bringing America out of their perceived dark ages, about avenging centuries of injustice, and righting any and all wrongs, no matter how governmentally damaging to our current existence. For the far Right, or rather the Authoritarians as an article so brilliantly dubbed them, (this article was shown to me by a friend and is available for read here, check it out, it’s amazing,) it is about cementing their perception of the American identity from anyone who seeks to abuse it. One side looks backward, the other forward, both doom their current state. Today’s cultural climate feels more like a house full of random roommates rather than a single country of citizens. Minimal cooperation, all parties using the shared space for their individual advancement, doing nothing more than what is necessary for the basic survival of their communal space, and preferring to defer those duties to another of their choosing. For evidence of this look no further than your own community. Government has failed at homogenous identity at all levels, and while the borderline confederacy supporter in me (literal definition, not moniker, before all of you light your racist pitchforks and march to my front door) wants to get behind this, even I can acknowledge that there must be shared ideals and goals at the local level in order for society to function properly. This is a big reason why law enforcement is seen as invading storm troopers rather than agents for insuring the preferred status of social behavior for the community. Local governments so poorly identify themselves and encourage local participation in the direction of their development that American citizens have turned away from hometown participation and turned straight to a top down mentality of government, so that no matter what side you are on you believe the answer to your better way of life resides in the President’s hands instead of your own.
This is where governments, local, state, and federal, should look to Texas A&M for ways to increase preferred identities and participation. Texas A&M encourages participation of its students in ways beyond enrollment, so that students become invested in not only their experience of the university, but how the university is presenting itself. Campus wide organizations like Big Event, Fish Camp, and AOLP, create an investment in students’ desire for a positive campus environment, image, and influence. They allow students to go beyond the traditional modes of involvement and recruit a broader demographic of students so that rather than there being specific stereotypes of organization members, the only requirement necessary is being an Aggie. Even the smallest of organizations, all of which are represented at MSC Open House plant their roots in the school, so that you have organization names like, “CCA Aggieland, Conservative Aggies, Texas A&M LGBT,” which reminds students that foremost the organization is about the school, the first unifying factor is Texas A&M, and their particular hobby or interest is secondary to their university.
The first step then must be a recognition of local governments that their populaces are nowhere near as unified as they should be, that a homogenous identity is necessary for communal advancement, and from there the example should be followed at the state and local level. While our uniqueness may make us great, it is our choice to reside in America, or, more appropriately the United States of America, that overwhelm any differences and put the success of the nation at the forefront of all of our ambitions.