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.
Conflict is to America as air is to the Earth. It's everywhere. We've all seen it or experienced it: a bully picking on smaller kids and the kids standing up to the bully. This is a quarrel in the simplest form. We've also seen this idea in its most complex forms with WWI, WWII, the Vietnam War and recently the Iraq War. Fighting is everywhere we look. That's why I believe the American Experience is an experience of continuous conflict.
Now, when I said that conflict is everywhere, I didn't just mean now or within the last century. This country was founded on the idea of fighting, and without this, we wouldn't be an independent country today. For example, when we as colonies decided to break away from Great Britain, we started a conflict that lasted for over eight years and later won us our freedom. Patrick Henry, a strong patriot during the Revolutionary War, was one of many who had very extreme and conflicting ideas with Great Britain. His famous quote, "Give me liberty or give me death!" showed Great Britain to what extreme, meaning conflict, Americans would go to gain independence from them. This nation was founded on conflict, and without it, we would still be colonies of Great Britain and have a cripplingly one-sided government.
Federalists and Anti-Federalists. Democratic-Republicans and Federalists. Democrats and Republicans. Our political parties have feuded for hundreds of years over our country's policies. Every issue is debated over and debated over until a solution emerges. Conflict is necessary in politics to reach a resolution. Take the current debate over the defense spending. Democrats want to cut spending drastically while Republicans have always believed that a strong defense for America is crucial. This debate has gone on for years and years in Congress. Sure, some things have changed regarding the defense, but the overall issue is not completely solved. The parties' arguments have brought change to this country's defense none the less. If either side didn't fight for what they wanted, we would have the same Constitution and the same laws we had in 1776.
Conflict is a very personal issue for me as well. As a kid, I was picked on through elementary school, but especially in the third grade. I had conflict with one girl throughout that year. She told fake secrets and spread rumors about me. This type of fighting is better known as bullying, which is growing rapidly. Studies show that bullies are more likely to cause conflict later on in life. The girl who once bullied me way back in grade school is an excellent example. I have heard about her, still to this day, picking on kids and being aggressive toward others. See what I mean? Conflict was a part of my childhood, so I know first-hand that it is a major problem in American society.
Also, when I was little I watched cartoons "duke it out" on Saturday mornings. Whether it was Tom and Jerry or the Road Runner and the Coyote, almost every cartoon involved conflict. Think about it: Can you think of one cartoon without a character and a nemesis in it? I can't. Children exposed to violent TV shows -- yes, this includes cartoons -- are more likely to be aggressive and cause conflict than those who do not watch violent shows. Conflict had a major role in retro cartoons and still does today. Every new show nowadays has a "good" guy and a "bad" guy. This labeling insinuates right versus wrong, which in turn causes conflict between people.
Conflict is such a diverse word. It has a multitude of contextual meanings. Throughout history, though, this eight-letter word made monumental changes to this country. From a simple difference in opinion to a full-scale war, fighting is in any American's blood. The next time you're walking the streets of America and you read about the debate in Congress over our military, or a newspaper story about soldiers fighting a terrorist cell, you'll see conflict is everywhere in this country.