Monday, March 6, 2017

The Divided States of Huck and Tom

The task of characterizing the whole of America or the essence of the American spirit has become exceedingly difficult in the past year. Actually characterizing America as one thing and not another has perhaps always been a nearly impossible task given the tension and division that has existed in this country since its founding. That being said, the Huck and Tom model seems like one that America might just be able to squeeze into.

The United States of Tom is a nation that presumes, one that thinks quite highly of itself, one that believes it pulled itself up by its bootstraps and thinks you should do the same. Clearly, there's some Tom in this country. The United States of Huck is one that wonders, one that values justice and fairness, one that cares about the other side of the story. While the Hucks may not be as loud as the Toms, they're certainly here too. It would be easy for me to say the Republicans are Toms and people that oppose the current political apparatus but that confirms my own biases a little too much for it to be entirely true. While I would like to say that people that don't believe in social welfare and minority rights are Toms, and therefor to be disdained, there are Tom-like and Huck-like qualities in everybody, and glossing over this nuance to paint with broad strokes probably just divides us further.

We are all Huck when we try to understand somebody else's point of view, when we consider our worlds aren't as tiny as we might be inclined to believe they are, when we open ourselves up to new experiences. In contrast, we are all Tom when we let injustices slide because it's easier or we benefit from that particular injustice. We've all got both of Huck and Tom in us, and that's not an necessarily a bad thing. All you can really do is hope Huck's got a little more influence.

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