Bittersweet Celebration This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     On January 20, 2005, I stood on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to hear the President and Vice President sworn in. I was torn between excitement and dismay: there I was in our glorious capital, witnessing history and traditions, the present and uncertain future surrounding me, but I could not freely rejoice.

I was waiting to see a president whose policies I despised sworn in for another four years, and my heart was trembling. Four years, I thought, and remembered what he had done in the last four. I was scared to think of what he might do, what he might take away or irreparably damage in the next four. I found no comfort in the thousands around me, for I was confounded by them and their support. I do not know whether their following him clearly or their blind adoration frightened me more.

I found no comfort in his speech either, although some was intended. When he talked of “the consequential times in which we live,” I could only think of the decades-long consequences his actions have imposed on my generation. We will be the ones left with diplomatic relations to repair, and the burden of a debt so large that it is hard to comprehend. Again this year we face a record deficit. Those who force it upon us will just walk away.

He asked this next generation “to believe the evidence of your eyes,” but if he could see what I and others do, I do not think he would have asked. We have seen brothers, fathers, uncles, sons, sisters, daughters and mothers die for a cause that does not exist. Those who survive return to a weak economy and uncertain job market. In three years we have seen the empathy and support for America dwindle to a memory.

He asked for tolerance toward others, but in this land where we fly the flag of freedom and equality for all, we will not allow two people who love each other to marry because they are the same sex. Is that the equality and liberty we tout abroad and die for every day? I hope one day people will look back on this inequality the way we currently look back on “separate but equal.”

The President stated that “as long as whole regions simmer in resentment and tyranny prone to ideologies that feed hatred ... violence will gather and multiply.” With our great arrogance, we are only growing and cutting the wood to feed this fire of resentment toward America. With the ideologies and stereotypes that we ourselves embody and promote, the only force that can “break the reign of hatred and resentment” that is in part created by us is not (as he says) human freedom imposed on others, but the tolerance and acceptance of other people and their cultures. Only through that will we achieve lasting peace and freedom. Violence and hate, claimed Martin Luther King, Jr. only beget violence and hate. “You may murder the hater but you do not murder hate.” We are doing nothing but incurring more hatred each day we spend in Iraq.

Our survival as a country begins not abroad, as Bush argues, but here at home. Until we fully accept one another and have full and just equality for all, we cannot with an open conscience persuade and promote either by words or by force what we cannot show by example.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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