Walt Whitman, the Hope Deficit, and the Rebel Voice

America

by Walt Whitman
Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

The forgotten, yet living American Spirit

Frederick Jackson Turner wrote the frontier thesis or the turner thesis. Natural American Spirits are cigarettes that hipsters like. Walt Whitman wrote leaves of grass, song of myself, america, pioneers, o pioneers! and volunteered as a medical nurse during the civil war. Partisanship, mainstream media, independent media and history are great. Grant was drunk for most of the war. Hemingway and the American spirit.

What is the American Spirit? It is a spirit that the poet Walt Whitman vitalized with his timeless, powerful words. But what is it? It’s hopefully more than a cigarette brand. I’d say that the American Spirit is a spirit of optimism, discovery, and the belief that our society thrives because of the pioneering, toiling works of each and every the individual that makes it up.

I’d say this because this spirit was well-analyzed in Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis of 1893 in which Turner explained that Americans— while encountering the frontier as they expanded westward— forged and crystallized their national identity(the text of his thesis available here).  The American identity became one of resilience, because the frontier was hostile; it became one of courage, because the frontier was vast; and it became one of autonomy, because the frontier was ungoverned and sparsely-populated.

And of course it became an eclectic spirit, constantly being influenced by waves and waves of immigration throughout its history. From this eclecticism, a unified spirit managed to emerge, and that is what was known as the American Spirit.

There is a severe hope deficit in the media today… we are only given information about small victories, personal victories— like the little human interest stories at the end of a broadcast. 

But today, the American Spirit is something we don’t hear about. Our nation appears to have lost every vestige of any widely-accepted, unified ideal.

Partisanship and group membership now dictate the spirit of each individual and this—taken to an extreme— has made us weak. The immigrant spirit is against the non-immigrant spirit; the Christian is against the non-Christian; those in business are against those concerned about the environment. And above all, there is the Democrat spirit pitted against the Republican spirit; one is supposedly based on fairness and equality while the other is supposedly based on rewarding hard work and personal effort.

It is apparent that these social and political ideals continue to divide us and continue to fail us because of the very divisions that they foment for the sake of their own survival.

It is also apparent that in the political sphere, fairness is not necessarily a substitute for reaping the rewards of hard work (both can exist at the same time) but our two major parties will do just about anything to prevent us—the American people and the only political body with real authority— from realizing that.

The reason for this is that we, the people, have not realized the immense power we hold. The people have not realized that the success of their nation is still in our hands and it is still very much our responsibility. There is still much hope, and while we will not hear about it if we only listen to the extremely powerful mainstream media who would probably prefer if we did not move to correct inequality issues but rather, remained terrified and glued to our media habits.

The Hope Deficit

The hope deficit and human interest stories. Negative and cynical mainstream media about occupy wall street. Media conglomerates and pussy riot. Maria Alyokhina is in pussy riot and putin sucks and is opressive. Increasing income inequality since reagan. Pussy riot and Maria Alyokhina free pussy riot.

There is a severe hope deficit in the media today. We hear about seemingly insurmountable national problems and cataclysmic global problems. To appease us, we are only given information about small victories, personal victories— like the little human interest stories at the end of a broadcast about student-geniuses or others like that.

While on a larger scale, there is little or no support for ongoing efforts focused on social change. The largest American media outlets in this country are still negative or cynical about large-scale, highly-symbolic efforts like Occupy Wall Street and speak about it in the past-tense, as if it is finished and can now be forgotten.

I don’t think our generation has experienced or felt real hope in quite some time… we make up for this by fleeing from reality in whatever form possible. That same set of media companies constantly reminds that the people are not only powerless and incapable of organizing, but also hopeless and victimized. This leaves many feeling as if they do not have any say in the path of their nation the path is determined by factors outside their control and by individuals more privileged and powerful. It is an attitude of stagnation and indifference that has been created either by chance or on purpose. That’s the hope deficit.

Maria Alyokhina, a member of Pussy Riot (the Russian activist group/ punk band) beautifully articulated the nature of this attitude during Pussy Riot’s “trial”. Continue reading