The Chronicle’s View: Like it or not, 2004 goes down in history

In the history of cultural consciousness, there are a handful of easily identifiable events that can be said to contribute to a sense of generational identity.

These events are the physical embodiment of the issues that rally and polarize a civilization, and in so doing, help to forge a sense of self for what is often a previously apathetic or unmotivated demographic of individuals.

The examples are many: The death of Princess Diana, the Vietnam/Nixon dilemmas and the liberal American patriotism that counteracted it, the tragedies of Sept. 11-all of these occurrences have revealed important truisms about the people they affect by simply generating public response.

This is because these public actions and responses speak volumes about those responsible for them.

So, how does the 2004 election fit in with these identity-forging events? It is representative of a gamut of ideological, political, faith-based differences, and is extremely valuable in terms of helping modern America forge a more developed understanding of its identity.

That is, the 2004 election means more to Americans than simply which president we place in office-it is the distillation of national differences and similarities that have stewed since Bush took office four years ago and the 9/11 attacks that promptly followed his inauguration.

It is no secret that America is divided along very partisan lines right now, and as such, this election means a great deal to a greatly varied demographic of citizens. Of course, everyone knows where they were when the Twin Towers fell, everyone knows how they felt when we invaded Iraq and now, in the wake of this most recent election, all of voting America will remember how they feel about the outcome of a decision that has come to represent the culmination of ideologies in our nation.

The question becomes, then, why is this election so important?

The reason why the 2004 election is so paramount is not simply because it has the potential to change so many facets of the American system of government-no question, it does. But, the greater reason why this election took such a incomparable position among the American public’s consciousness is that the voting public itself set it up to be so important.

The 2004 election was a self-fulfilling prophecy-up to this point, Americans cared about certain issues, but they lacked the figureheads and melting pot to gather all the ingredients together. Because the media, the public and the government stressed the importance of this election, and because it served as an embodiment of all that either irks or pleases Americans, the 2004 election could never have been anything other than paramount-we set it up to be huge.

And that’s just fine. Much like all the other identity-forging circumstances that came before it, the 2004 election is very much a byproduct of the population that created it.

This election is America-we made it, we feel passionately for it and we’re the ones who dictated its outcome.