Espresso-Based Resolutions - by Greer Clem
Last week, at the end of a long work day, my friend and I were discussing espresso. She told me she had been invigorated that day by treating herself to an Americano, a beverage made by diluting espresso with hot water until it effectively becomes coffee but with a slightly different taste. We then talked about our various friends, either from school or in the workplace, who chugged espresso like it was Gatorade, and we lamented that this was comically American. How very like our culture to take something meant to be sipped and delicately enjoyed and turn it into just another on-trend substance meant to keep us going. I'm sure everyone has heard their mom exclaim, "We need to eat more like French people - they buy fresh so they aren't fat! It's all about moderation!" Then there are those that say a Mediterranean diet, rich in healthy fats and oils, is what Americans lack. We eat all the wrong fats! Around and around we go, pumped full of espresso, jittering our fat asses around and wondering: is America always getting it wrong?
I can't help but liken this way of thinking to modern American politics. I so often hear, "Well, we need a Nordic healthcare system, that's what we need" or "Germany really is doing higher education right." Not to devalue the successes of other nations, but these conversations often end up just like an Americano: a watered-down version of something we did not create. It's ironic to me that ingenuity is so hard to find in the face of political danger. Trump's whole platform was making America great by a return to bygone times and exclusionary practices. Now, we know that this is not innovation, but the necessary response to his methods should be to encourage the creation of new ideas and systems. Instead, we are even more afraid to come out and suggest that we start over, create something new. It's hard enough to do this in a time of political security; can't we just make like an Americano and borrow someone else's idea, diluting it down, and serving it to the public as though it's brand new?
I find myself committing these same mistakes. I'm often asked for solutions to the political problems I break down in my writing. "Okay, but what do we do about that?" has become the question I am asked most. The politician's answer often begins with hemming and hawing about how we need to gain the political footing to propose new ideas; "Well, we need to focus on taking back the House" or "grassroots elections are what's going to change the face of this country." These statements are both true. But if we delay the invention of new ideas, we delay our own progress.
Let's take, for example, gun control. See, you're already apprehensive. All I've done is mention the issue and now you're wondering how a political commentary piece based on coffee observations turned so drastic. The reason is this: American gun control needs to be unique. I hear so often that countries such as Norway and Sweden have such low rates of gun violence, and this is true. That is because their gun laws are inherently different, not to mention the fact that they are largely homogeneous societies with far fewer culture clashes than we see in America. Thus, taking their framework and trying to mold it to fit our society will get us nothing but a watered down version of what could have been. But we are afraid to forge our own path, especially in the face of political uncertainty. I know this fear and I feel it too, but the time for stalling has passed.
We have survived a year under the Trump presidency and we have fought back. Now it is time to start fighting, not against something, but for something. If we're going to be criticized, let's be criticized for proposing new ideas. Let's draft gun control legislation, if for no other reason than to show Americans that we are not afraid to build something new, that we recognize that something new is needed. There is no shame is saying that what we have is not working, nor is their shame in studying other examples of success but realizing that our version may have to look different. I have therefore decided to make this a resolution: I will try to propose solutions to the problems I see. No doubt some will be unrealistic or naive, but I have faith in the innovation of the American people. Somewhere out there is the next foamy, invigorating beverage just waiting to be consumed, made for no other reason than because someone had a new idea.