Guest blogger and Entrepreneurship major Sam Johnson writes to us from the London Business Semester, sharing his thoughts about living abroad during this momentous time in American history.
As I peer across the Atlantic and look upon the current state of America, I can’t help but feel as if my fellow travelers and I have dodged the proverbial bullet. We crossed the pond in early September just as the political circus was rolling into town and just a few weeks before the collapse of Lehman Brothers became the blind stroke that gutted the piñata that is our financial system. To be absent during such a consequential time for our country has some important advantages. One of the major advantages is that I feel as if I have been spared the anesthesia that is so easily contracted while within range of the American media. The tendency of the media is to compose the melody of a crisis or and then scream it in your ear until it becomes nothing more than white noise. This process is accelerated when the politicians learn the tune and begin to serenade the masses into submission. If I was home this semester, I imagine a scenario in which schoolwork, routine and the normality of life would inevitably turn the words “financial crisis” into nothing more than a meaningless, focus group tested buzzword that represents an important event and yet nothing worth serious investigation. However, in this foreign environment, in which the every aspect of my outlook on life, from my most fundamental conviction to my opinion on any given peripheral issue, has been cast in a new light, every idea, situation, or random occurrence has the potential to produce a profound effect. It is as if the sun has risen higher in the sky or fallen towards the horizon and has thus infused the world with a fresh vitality and potency. I am reminded of the words of Father Malone, who is one of the two members of St. Thomas faculty, along with Dr. Rexeisen, who have served as our guides and mentors while accompanying us on our journey, who said that studying abroad is one of the only chances one will ever have to truly “become a student.” This simple idea has renewed in me an intellectual fervor that has allowed me to see beyond the nauseating and demoralizing surface of the political situation and the financial collapse. These landmark events are now an opportunity to reflect upon what is really important and to internalize the consequences of each event and let them wreak havoc on the mind that is stricken with specious arguments, pretentious convictions and unchallenged biases. The apathetic observer will think they know enough to cast a vote, while the student will struggle with the consequences of such insufficient candidates, of an entire political establishment whose interest in the opinions of its constituents is solely dependent upon the election cycle and of the existence of an entrenched media that deludes and controls rather than informs and empowers.