My New Year Resolutions for America, or “X” Things I’d Like to See Left in 2015

January.

It’s that time again.

More exercise. Less junk food.

More church. Less booze.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Que sera sera and let the good times roll.

The New Year resolution is everyone’s favorite restart button. The allure it wields as a launch pad for our personal goals and achievements is a beacon of hope and promise. It is a mile-marker of progress (or lack there of) made in the past and an opportunity to try again and get it right in the future. Noting this special quality in this particularly significant moment in history (there is sooo much going on) I decided to bottle up this potential and gift it to someone whom I care about very much: America. (You didn’t see that sentiment coming, did ya? HA!)

Last year, I was relatively quiet, withholding a lot of my thoughts based on personal observations and experiences. I resolved to hold on to them in the event they somehow proved useful, and I realized what better way could they serve a good purpose than to inform goals for a better society…and alas…here they are–my resolutions for America and its people.

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You’ll notice the ambiguous “X” in the title. That stems from the fact that when I initially began to write these in October/November there were only four. Then they began to grow in number, some popping up two or three at a time in a day. So uhhh…I don’t really know how many there at the moment, but the following will begin a list that I will gradually share over the course of this month and set the stage for more dialogue throughout the year.

My 2016 New Year Resolutions for America are:

1.) To unlearn social apathy

We are in no short supply of problems in America. That’s okay. Facing obstacles helps us grow as a society and as a nation. However, how we approach these issues determines the nature of our growth (or degeneration). There are several ways to seek solutions for America’s problems, but the most obvious is to carefully and thoughtfully consider all aspects of the issues and work together to resolve them. The sad, negative alternative is to ignore the issues all together either out of a sense of apathy or assuming someone else will handle it. If an issue doesn’t appear to directly affect you it’s easy to feel removed from it or think there’s nothing that you could do to help, but let me tell you, this is definitely not the case. This new brand of the “bystander effect” is probably the most crippling opponent in realizing a better world. In her poem Family Pictures (1971) Gwendolyn Brooks wrote “we are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” If as real Americans we love our country and as humans we are genuinely concerned about the world becoming a better place for ourselves and generations to come we have to understand our roles in each other’s lives and follow through with the small ways in which we can shape our collective futures. Women’s issues are men’s issues and so men should be listening in on those relevant conversations to become informed agents of progress in support (note, not on the behalf) of women. Problems that plague and oppress communities of color plague and oppress the white American majority, therefore it would behoove white Americans to shrug off an indifference to racial injustice and work with those communities of color to overcome. It’s the only way we can move up from where we are.

 2.) Removing mental health stigmas

Admittedly, things are better than they have ever been. Mental health awareness over the years has certainly gained traction and affected the way we talk about mental health issues, but there still remains a lot of work to be done in this area. Thankfully President Obama feels the same having just yesterday included a provision in his latest “gun control executive order” that requests $500 million from Congress in order to “increase access to mental health care.” From my perspective, mental health issues still tend to bear a stigma that “other” those who suffer from conditions like depression, schizophrenia, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder. I see the need for help all around me. There’s a need in my family and friend circles…definitely within myself, and there’s no question about our country and world. A lot of what I perceive (and granted I’m no professional) is just a need for folk to have safe counseling spaces to come out of their head and verbally let go of the mental toxins that have naturally built up as a result of plain ol’ living. A 2013 Center for Disease Control study found that in that year 41,149 Americans succumbed to suicide, a number, one should note, which doesn’t reflect the even more instances of attempted suicide. In 2015 my alma mater, Auburn University, saw 5 student suicides, an alarming number in any case, but certainly for such a small community like Auburn. Can you see the need for increased transparency, literacy and conversation regarding mental health?

Compared to other health issues, people experiencing symptoms of mental disorders are more likely not to receive proper help and may even be discouraged from seeking help by having those around them trivialize or downplay their experiences. The latter case is even more pressing in the black and religious communities where both groups sometimes dismiss mental illness as a non-factor of the community and something that can be fixed solely by immersing one’s self in religious practice. It is my hope that we can transcend these roadblocks in the new year and continue intensive education of mental health issues in order to connect people with helpful resources in a timely fashion. When we remove the stigma from mental health we allow for a greater flow of understanding to enter our society and healing can establish itself on a more firm plain.

And that’s it for now! I would love to hear your thoughts or questions regarding my resolutions and even your own new resolutions for yourself and the world around you. I’m certain those conversations will be intriguing! Until next time…!

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