Reflective Essay
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  • 1. Sam Jones<br />Period 1-Honors lit.<br />May 16, 2011<br />US failing, succeeding, evolving essay<br />Success and Failure Intertwined<br />“The more things change, the more they stay the same” (Alphonse Karr). The United States is, and has been, constantly changing and evolving, succeeding and failing. It is going through the same process countless civilizations have gone through during the history of the world. By studying the rise and fall of other civilizations we can understand how the United States is failing, succeeding and evolving over time.<br />The nomadic Mongols grew from a small group of loose tribes to the rulers of the largest land empire in the history of the world in just over a century and a half. This massive change was caused by their leaders, most notably Genghis Khan, who was able to create and manage this vast empire. The skilled Mongolian army also played an important role in the civilization’s rise, as they allowed expansion by conquering others. As they took over other lands, they included the captured area’s culture with their own. They are known for their brutal ways, occasionally killing every living thing, including plants, in the city they wished to control. Other empires soon feared them greatly, which, coupled with the immense size of the Mongols’ territory, brought about the fall of the Mongol civilization. <br />As the Mongols expanded, they became a common enemy for the people near their borders. Empires who had been fighting against one another for hundreds of years banded together and attacked the Mongols. While the Mongols had the advantage in skill, it greatly lacked the numbers of soldiers in opposing armies. The empire was too vast to defend, and the other rulers soon took over the majority of the territory, ending the Mongolian empire.<br />The United States is far from the super power it was less than a century ago. We have had combat troops on foreign soil for more than a decade, fighting a war on an act that will never be stopped, because “terrorism, like viruses, is everywhere” (Jean Baudrillard). Not only are American soldiers losing their lives daily, but it hurts the world’s opinion of Americans in general. Despite the very long period of fighting, the conflict shows no signs of ending soon. At home, too, America is faced with failures with the economy and financial market which recently resulted in many losing their homes and savings. The percentage of job loss has increased, and national debt is over $14.3 trillion. Additionally, the United States is behind more than a score of countries in math and science, as well as other areas of education. The nation is also 19th in graduation rates from high school, with one student dropping out every 26 seconds (“By the Numbers: High School Dropout Rate”). These dropouts affect the rest of the country, because if the graduation rate increased by just 1%, the US would save $1.4 billion in health care costs, as graduates often have better jobs with health insurance. Despite these failures, the United States is not without successes. <br />Even though our economy is failing and we are behind on education, the United States has maintained a working democracy for almost a century and a half. Our government today is still a “government of the people, by the people (and) for the people” (Abraham Lincoln). We were able to create this democracy from a group of colonies and grow to become the third largest country in the world, much like the Mongols. Additionally, we went from a military mostly comprised of farmers and few professional soldiers to the most powerful professional military in the world. Yet we use this power to help other nations and defend our interests, but not to conquer the weak. However, our successes aren’t limited to those that affect American citizens and foreign countries only, but immigrants as well. We have, and continue to, followed the laws of capitalism for many years; someone can enter this country with the clothes on their back and the will to work, and can become a millionaire. We have also kept our desire for freedom throughout our history, which resulted in its own successes; our independence from England, for example. Even with successes such as these, a civilization will decline if it does not move forward. The United States is preventing this by succeeding not only by repeating what has been proven successful, but also by changing and evolving with, or ahead of, the rest of the world.<br />The United States has had to change many of its ways in an effort to reduce global warming and preserve the environment. This includes modifying everything from cars and energy sources to ammunition. For example, food is being used as experimental fuel, and lead-less, more efficient bullets are in production. Electricity is also being considered as an alternate source of power for vehicles, instead of biofuel or environmentally-harmful regular fuel. New uses for recycled trash are emerging, which allows new products to be made without harvesting new resources. The United States is evolving not only environmentally, but in technological advancements as well. Before 1959, the moon was an unattainable goal, but “all civilizations must become either space faring or extinct” (Carl Sagan). The United States was able to design a craft capable of reaching an unexplored world, and successfully carry out a mission to landed men there. Additions and improvements were made, and now even a civilian can travel into space, with enough money. Perhaps the most obvious evolution, though, is the inclusion of foreign people and cultures, such as Hispanics. While this has made the population far more diverse, it has caused the unique identity of the United States to fade. These are just a few <br />examples of improvements and changes that would not be possible if the United States could not evolve.<br />Any civilization must grow from its foundations. It will rise and show success, but will ultimately fail if it does not move forward. This has remained true for centuries, as it continues to be today. The challenge is to meet the needs and goals of its people without expanding too far physically or culturally so it loses its identity or is unable to maintain its society.<br />