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The Roads of Rome

The Ironic Story of Progress Impeding Longevity

Imagine, if you will, yourself back in 1776 sitting at a local pub that’s filled with your neighbors, friends, co-workers, and other members of the community. The air is filled with the most sensational blend of bliss, shock, pride, hope, ambition, courage, and inspiration making the ale you’re enjoying somehow taste that much better. Suddenly, a few tables over, a young man proceeds to stand up on his chair, propping one foot up on the table, and boldly raise his freshly poured pint into the air with his right hand while simultaneously waving the rest of the pub silent with his left. A few throat-clearings later, the chatter dwindles down to near silence with all eyes fixed on this young man as he surveys the room; searching for the appropriate words to express the message he believes so necessary to deliver to his newfound audience. A few moments of silence pass, unintentionally invoking peak anticipation throughout the entire pub, before the young man’s eyes match the fire in his soul and he proceeds to shout, “TO FREEDOM!” You, along with the rest of the pub, immediately blast out of your chair and erupt into cheers, thrusting your pint into the air so enthusiastically you end up wearing more of your ale than you’ve drunk and you couldn’t care less because after years of fighting a war that you were not supposed to win against an enemy viewed by the rest of the world as invincible—you overcame the odds, you won the war, and you finally have the privilege, no, the honor of being able to say exactly that, “to freedom.”

Eventually, the clanking of pint glasses, cries of joy, celebratory high fives and dedicational drinks subside but the excitement within you hasn’t even made it through pre-game warm-ups yet. You get that feeling in your stomach comparable to the one you’d imagine feeling after standing in front of a crowd of a million people and delivering the perfect speech, or standing on the highest of the three podiums at the Olympics as they place the gold medal around your neck, however, the only word that can properly describe your thought process is "perseverance." Not even the most vivid imaginations of the time could have painted an accurate representation of what the world of tomorrow would become, neither the good nor the bad, but that is a conversation you decide to hold on another day. Tonight, you celebrate like none before you because you have a front row seat to the birth of a country that has the potential to be the greatest mankind has ever created.

Now, hop back in your phone booth (or DeLorean) and jump back to present day. Whether you’re a full-blown alcoholic that visits your local bar multiple times a day, a weekend warrior, the occasional celebratory drinker or a complete social recluse that doesn’t even know what the inside of a bar looks like—it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine the atmosphere within one. This time the air is plagued with fear, self-pity, complacency, insecurity, doubt, selfishness, regret, concern, hostility, raging hormones, and embarrassing pick-up lines that inevitably make the ridiculously over-priced beer you’re drinking somehow taste so toxic you begin to genuinely wonder if it came from Pripyat the day after the Chernobyl disaster. You see through the fog of mediocrity just enough to get a small chuckle over the irony of the bar being overwhelmed with arrogance, yet completely lacking pride. Although the bar is almost full, you can count the number of people engaged in actual conversation on one hand because everybody else is too busy either looking down at their phones or up at the televisions. There could be beautiful women or handsome men surrounding you, but there’s no way of honestly knowing. Instead of the other patrons embracing their true identity, they let the intentionally impossible standards set by manipulative marketing strategies force them into hiding behind unreasonable amounts of makeup, low-cut shirts, push-up bras, skimpy dresses, spray tans, hair gel, designer jeans, name-brand shirts, flashy watches, and just about every other unnecessary materialistic possession possible to convince themselves that they’re convincing others that they’re worth striking a conversation with.

Soon after, your attention shifts to one of the televisions that’s airing a news station just to realize that the only thing worse than being in this depressing bar is being outside of it. Why? You’re reminded that: we as a country really had to choose a President between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, our criminal justice system is so broken that we literally have between 4-5% of the world’s population yet 22-25% of the world’s prisoner population, the Thirteenth Amendment redefined instead of abolished slavery, over 60 years have passed since the beginning of the civil rights movement yet we’re just as divided now as we were then, corporations were granted certain human rights before certain humans, we’re in a perpetual state of war, although alternative forms of energy are so easily accessible we are essentially banned from pursuing them because our currency is no longer backed by gold thus making oil the only thing keeping any value behind our currency (aka the ‘Petro-Dollar’), and even though Thomas Jefferson clearly outlined the devastation that allowing a private centralized banking system to control the issuance of our currency would cause—we still somehow wound up with the Federal Reserve. After a painful moment spent trying to digest the terrifying tidal wave of revelations that just flooded your conscious mind, you take a second survey of the guests inside the establishment only to realize the worst part of it all is that everybody appears so consumed with conforming to the image they think others want to see, they don’t even bother acknowledging the unimaginable depth our society has fallen to.

Sadly, this is the state of our country today. We’ve strayed so far away from the vision our forefathers had for this country that their original intent is more synonymous with a fairy tale than our current way of life. However—just like those bold men and women 240 years ago whose cheers echoed across all the colonies in celebration of establishing true freedom and cementing the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for every single human being—I am here to say that does not have to be the state of our country tomorrow. Now, I am aware that they were far from perfect back then given that slavery still existed and women's rights were nothing more than a joke—just to cite a couple of examples—but I’m not going to let their distorted definition of “everyone” change mine. I refuse to accept this world of hate, condemnation, war, discrimination, greed, envy, insecurity, selfishness and competition. Instead, I envision a world of love, encouragement, peace, equality, prosperity, gratefulness, confidence, selflessness, and collaboration, and my sole cling to hope is the belief that I am not the only one who envisions such a world. I neither can nor will complacently sit back and watch this unfathomable devastation unravel right in front of my eyes anymore because I simply do not have it in me to one day look my kid(s) in the eyes and say, “People like your daddy who acknowledged the problem but refused to address it, for whatever reason they convinced themselves to be justifiable, are why you have to live in the closest thing to hell our world has ever seen. Please understand that I am so sorry I didn’t have the courage to at least attempt to prevent you from ever having to see such a barbaric world. The potential for correcting the corruption and developing this country into the beautiful place it was envisioned to be was well within our grasp, but now I have to live with the fact that my negligence was the catalyst for your misery.”

So, my question to you is very simple—are you prepared to have that conversation with your child(ren)? If not, remember that the people who fought for us to live in the country overcame odds far more unfavorable than the ones we’re up against today. They laid the foundation for us to build a country where its citizens are truly free, truly equal, truly prosperous (in more ways than just financially), and truly proud to be the standard the rest of the world should hold itself to. Now, it’s time for us to finish what they started so we as a species can finally lay our barbaric past to rest, left only to live in history books and bedtime stories. We have an obligation—as citizens of both this country and this world—to, in some way, leave our planet better than we found it. That is not a task that can be accomplished by pointing fingers or advocating division.  This is something that can only be accomplished by embracing individuality, removing petty biases, and standing united for a greater cause. Whether you’re black, white, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, male, female, male turned female, female turned male, republican, democrat, child, adult, or any other unnecessarily dividing title, we are ALL human beings and it’s about damn time we started acting like it.

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