This editorial answers the question, "What is the American Experience?" It is part of a series from the junior AP Language and Composition classes at Oakton High School in Northern Virginia, and was selected by a panel of student judges for publication on HuffPost Teen.
As I leave my home in suburban Northern Virginia and drive off to school at the ungodly hour of 6:30 a.m., I figure there can't be any human being awake that hasn't been forced to get out of bed by the "tyrannous" Fairfax County public school system. This is false, however, as I spot several vehicles, with people inside of them obviously having no intention of attending public high school, cruising down Route 50. Their purpose for being awake during an hour of the day once thought incapable of supporting life is unknown, but makes one think a bit about the nature of American life. Is there no unanimous time in our country where everybody just stops?
Quantum mechanics, the study of the motion of subatomic particles, states that subatomic particles (electrons, protons, neutrons, etc.) are always in motion. Could quantum mechanics also apply to American society as well? It seems that the United States is never fully at rest. There are always a few people awake during the wee hours of the night racing to complete their various tasks, much like electrons constantly whirring around the nucleus of an atom.
Because the country is never at rest, the United States of America is often considered one of the more progressive countries on the Earth. "How can we improve this?" "How can we cure this?" "What can we change?": These questions are always on the minds of Americans, and what makes the USA a country of progress. As Americans, we are never satisfied with what we have. Many who follow the "cult" of Steve Jobs and Apple found themselves buying the iPhone4S after what seemed like milliseconds after buying the iPhone4. The minds-at-work were not satisfied with what many considered to be a revolutionary device, and had to revamp it as soon as possible.
This necessity to improve, and the competitive nature instilled in traditional American values, promote American progressivism. Many of the United States' greatest feats were born out of competition, most prominently with the former Soviet Union. Without our need to beat the USSR in just about everything, the Stars and Stripes would not be waving on the surface of the Moon, nor would the U.S. have the 5,113 nuclear warheads that it currently possesses. But seeing as competition with foreign countries and the constant motion of American society has lead the United States into various armed conflicts and arms races, is all progress necessarily a step in the positive direction?
American history, while not always pretty, has always been progressive. One definition of "progress" from the Random House Dictionary is "advancement in general." This does not imply whether or not "progress" fosters negative or positive results. Take the stock market, for example. While at its birth it was one of the most "progressive" means of investment and making "quick money," the stock market eventually lead to the Great Depression -- the worst economic situation ever experienced in the United States.
Progressivism is always has good intentions at its core, however. The inherent need to improve and stay active in Americans is what makes American culture so admirable. The U.S. is always changing -- always in constant motion. One aspect of American life that can be unanimously used as a marker of different ages and generations is music. Thanks to American progressivism, "Yankee Doodle" isn't playing on our Top 40 radio stations. Instead, music has evolved from decade to decade, from classical music to jazz, to the early stages of rock and roll, to heavy metal, punk and (unfortunately) hip-hop. They are all inspired by the genres of an earlier generation. Music is constantly evolving, and is a clear sign that American culture is progressing as well.
American progress and innovation is never at a standstill. One of the most liberal and dynamic countries on the planet Earth has blazed the trail on many of the world's trends and technologies. Just as electrons behave as described by Max Planck and other quantum physicists, America is consistently in motion, always progressing toward Utopia.