It’s easy to forget amidst the multitude of generous donations made to Hurricane Harvey victims, but a few weeks ago we all hated each other. Or at least that’s what it seemed like.
The 24-hour news cycle is able to shape our view of America and its people every day. For the past few weeks, stories of antifa, Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis were dominating society’s peace of mind. Pinpointing what divides us was the focus of the narrative on America’s character. Thus, with sensationalized stories, it can be easy to forget we are more united than divided.
Hate speech, racial comments and violent threats seem to incite almost every news story these days as U.S. citizens stand divided by race, gender, opinions, political stance and much more. But then, events like the solar eclipse, Hurricane Harvey and even the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight find a way to shine some light on the goodness of the American people. With this cycle, our character seems to change with each news story of the day.
On Monday, Aug. 21, every American had the chance to witness a solar eclipse. Millions of people came together to enjoy the phenomenon as it passed over Earth. I was lucky enough to watch this year’s solar eclipse right outside Sandoz Hall’s front steps with a huge group of my fellow residents. Ecstatic hoots and hollers were the background noise as the phenomenon began.
For a few minutes, as the sun passed over the moon, we all looked up and reveled in the simple beauty of such an extraordinary sight. No one was taking sides or arguing that the moon was better than the sun because it was a Democrat or that the sun did a better job eclipsing because it was a white male. Everyone was able to enjoy a few seconds of peace with each other.
But after we came together as a country over the eclipse, a catastrophe came to Houston.
After Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast and devastated the city, celebrities like Kevin Hart and Chris Young began campaigning on the importance of donations. Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt started a fundraiser and has since surpassed his goal, raising over $17 million for the Hurricane Harvey victims.
Although it has received as much attention as the Charlottesville protests, it is a better representation of our true character, putting on display for all that it actually is possible to join together over a catastrophe. The images of Charlottesville were pushed to the back of our minds as we watched Americans helping other Americans out of devastated homes.
On Aug. 26, Floyd Mayweather, now former professional boxer, went up against Conor McGregor, a UFC lightweight champion, in one of the biggest boxing matches in history. Bets were placed on who would win and watching a world record being potentially broken captivated boxing fans. The opponents traded insults, some racially charged, as they hyped the fight.
However, after the match, Mayweather spoke of his opponent in a very unexpected tone: respectful. He praised McGregor for a valiant effort saying, “He’s a lot better than I thought he was … he used different angles…Tonight I chose the right dance partner. Conor, you were a great dance partner tonight.”
On top of Mayweather’s positive and respectful comments towards his opponent, Snapchat was full of stories of people gathering together to watch the fight, and the sidewalks of downtown Lincoln were filled with people crowded around TVs to watch the fight. People were smiling, laughing and poking fun at each other for their champion of choice.
We came together over a fight, when normally we’re the ones doing the fighting — ironic, right?
Solar eclipses, hurricanes and professional boxing matches may not be the first things one would think about when imagining unity. With these events, our character was not defined by hate or division, but unity and acceptance.
There will always be sensational stories that shape our discourse for better or worse. But when we watched the solar eclipse, it didn’t matter that were divided by race, gender and inequalities. When people were pulled from a flooded home in Houston, it didn’t matter that we labeled ourselves as Democrats and Republicans. When Mayweather started to take the lead, it didn’t matter whom we placed our bets on. All that mattered was our country came together again and appreciated each other.