AP English Language and Composition
26 September 2019
It was sometime in 2015 when Jon Stewart said goodbye to America with his last episode of The Daily Show. I still vaguely remember it, as if a saga had come to an end that had to have happened eventually. About a year prior, I had begun watching Stewart and his political takes, engaged in the societal issues that have plagued America despite being generally disinterested in politicians, publicists, protests, and pundits. I’d finally plugged into the greater world behind the language and dialogue that took up the 24/7 news stations, able to connect real life to the TV.
My family has historically been an international bundle of nomadic groups, spread across the habitable continents. I’d always been aware of the international world as a result, and my newfangled interest in “the issues” took advantage. I’d research and read on national connections, histories, relations, reading who hated who, who fought who, who killed who. I still read history in my free-time, albeit without my prior voraciousness. The epic tales and sagas seemed to reflect the extremes of human nature and society. To experience it myself, I thought, would mature me as an individual.
The 2016 American presidential election. What a doozy. Every corner of society fought for so-and-who, angry at X and in love with Y, “libtard” this, “Nazi” that. People at each other's throats as if the world were ending tomorrow. The mass hysteria brought the stories I’d read much closer to reality. People had a lot of virtù despite their lack of virtue. When the people of England and Wales voted to take all of the United Kingdom out of the European Union, instigating a catastrophe known as Brexit, I’d seen chaos’s perverted tendencies. Once more, England was tearing up Europe because of lust, greed, and ignorance. Historically consistent in their behavior, I came to understand how much of a longstanding impact culture has on the actions of a people.
Could revolution work? I wondered for well over a year. The inability to change hearts and minds through the power of militia and propaganda made true revolt impossible. So how did the People’s Republic come about? I flew to a land of ancient culture and successful revolution, an oddity I’d previously considered impossible. If society were to break down, if institutions were to abuse their power, and if the world were to ignore injustice, how low could we go? China was dystopic in how well it held its scraps together. Functioning well beyond that of a developing African state, it seemed filthy how successful it had been in twisting and exploiting. Society was broken, its culture wiped by revolution and dissent silenced with violence, all of my hope and optimism were rendered obsolete ideas of a different time.
The humanities: humanity’s cultural components. History, art, literature, you know. The interests of arrogant, self-serving sociopaths, eh? No man could truly care for another, theatre and pretend drove life. To laugh, smile, point and shake hands. That’s what success meant. Nobody was allowed to be damaged or broken, a little rotten under the skin. All pretty apples you wouldn’t need to pare. That’s the world my anti-social, childish mind had created when I was a boy. Nothing is better in creating a hopeless society than hopeless children. The course of my life radically changed because of a comedy show on the TV, setting me on a path of research, expression, and adventure. To laugh, you must be able to interpret the world around you, and to know history is to know the world around you. To interpret is to feel, and to feel is to express. To express is to make art. To laugh is to be human.