In every demographical, cultural, and historical sense, the colonization of the Americas is one of the largest events ever imprinted on our short history. The discussion of this massive proliferation of goods, ideas, and peoples marks the beginning of our AP US History Class. Though we delve into deeper details, the story is familiar. Europeans arrive and ravage the American land and its original peoples. We follow the foundation of a nation built on destruction and enslavement, but then also its eventual revolution against a different oppressor. Despite this story’s familiarity, Dr. Nelson must remind us of one of his favorite quotations: “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it” (James Baldwin).
The present oftentimes feels feebly minuscule compared to the hulking past. It becomes even harder to comprehend the lasting effects left behind by the past’s unimaginably immense footprints. They can only be understated. As we learn about the past, I see the present. The spirit of revolution, of taking to arms, within our blood. The countless cultures and ideologies surrounding us. The aspiring ideal of rising from nothing. Our present is a myriad of intertwined and overlapping footprints of the past. The prints bind our present without apparent pattern. They are so dense, so huge, that they are indiscernible from each other. The single mass they make is the present. So, we pass by these footprints without a second glance.
In our history class, we try to outline and feel these footprints, attempting to make sense of the form they make: America. The problem is that new prints appear every day. The present is ever-changing. It is scary and exciting to think that mine and so many others’ footprints will define the future. It is even weirder to think that one of our footprints might be picked out from the rest to be explored and defined. Ultimately, as I think of the past, present and future and their union in history class, I find that the lesson is not to watch where you step, but rather, I think it is to make as many indentations on the earth as possible, as deep as you can.
Class of 2020
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