The Last Goodbye


I don’t know how to start this. I feel like, when momentous occasions are near, one is always at a loss for words, or at least those words are in a jumble. So I think I’ll start at the end.

Ends are a funny thing. Lots of us don’t focus on them during the day-to-day; that’s probably why graduation has snuck up on me the way it has. According to Merriam-Webster, the term “goodbye” is a contraction of the phrase “God be with ye” and was first used in 1575. In today’s somewhat more secular world, I’m not sure that that is entirely appropriate, but I guess that that is what I’m trying to say—in sentiment if not verbatim. As I get ready to start on a new chapter in my life, I want to thank and give my best wishes to this school and all of the people that I have met in my time here. I hope that, in the time that we are apart, that we all prosper and find joy in something.
Now that we’ve discussed the end, I’ll go to the beginning. When I arrived at West Potomac four years ago, I had no idea who I was going to be at the end of them—18 seems so far away for a 14 year old. I joined The Wire because I had an elective to fill, and because my father thought that it was a good idea. In that time I have met and worked with some of my most favorite people, from my advisor to my fellow editors. They are the people who have made me who I am today, along with all of my soccer teammates, and I could not be more grateful to them for all that they have done.

And now for the weighty editorial part: Over the past four years I’ve seen a significant change. There used to be a time when manners mattered. When first and foremost, everyone deserved kindness above all else. And that has gone by the wayside. Anger is now the primary mode of communication.
Perhaps the main source of this is the “me” society that has grown since the 80s. Reaganomics and yuppies and material gain have steered this country towards the bottom line, and coming out on top once you hit that line. This world is all “Wall Street” and Gordon Gekko and “Greed is good.”

…There used to be a time when manners mattered. When first and foremost, everyone deserved kindness above all else. And that has gone by the wayside. Anger is now the primary mode of communication.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in politics. Today, the relationship between the “Honorable” gentlemen and gentlewomen is anything but. When used by a member of the opposite party, the word “honorable” rings like an insult. Everything is about beating the other party, there is no consensus on anything and as some strange side effect, that lack of agreement has created the idea that members of the other party aren’t worth the courtesy of respect, even in the Capitol.

I don’t pretend to agree with many members of Congress, and I find the lies they spout to be despicable. However, as human beings, they are due a modicum of respect—for the office if not the person—that no one seems to be able to pull out of their hearts for anyone they disagree with. Cable news is one long rant eviscerating politicians—because that’s what the public wants to hear.

It seems our society is tired of being kind, tired of being respectful, so we have become angry…and in doing so we have lost one of the greatest powers of being human. Compassion and humanity are all wrapped up in the idea of sympathy and empathy that other animals rarely possess. We can feel for others. Rather than say, “These people don’t deserve my care because they have wronged me” or, “They don’t deserve my care because they’re wrong,” the most human thing a person can do is continue to care. Otherwise we will rip our own society to shreds, our own anger acting as the blades. Society is built on common rules and respect for the dignity and property of the other. Disrespect and a lack of kindness creates an imbalance, placing one member in judgment of the other. Beyond the walls of a courtroom, that is unacceptable in any society that claims to be based on equality.

Thus, I return to an example of the caring that we used to have in this world. “God be with ye” is perhaps one of the best, most lasting examples of hope for your fellow human beings that we have created these past few centuries—even if we are a less religious society these days. It is, fundamentally, a statement of care, that, when I leave you, things will go well in your lives, and that you will have support until we meet again.
So, goodbye.