Are you happy? I’m not talking about the momentary happiness caused by a new pair of converse or a good bourbon. I’m talking about that deep rooted contentedness that comes as a product of a life being well lived. Have you felt that? I don’t think you have. I don’t think any of us have. If you take the time to speak with a grandparent or maybe an elderly neighbor, if they’re old enough, they’ll tell you stories about the FDR, World War II, and the Great Depression. When I type this, I think of my grandfather spinning tales about the Navy during the Korean War, “seeing the world” as he liked to call it. These weren’t simple times, but a glance at the wistfulness in his eyes told me they were happy times, hopeful times.
We’ve lost that happiness. Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the deep seeded contentedness and optimism found in the everyday American heart. Where did it go? Some will try to make you believe that the lack of happiness can be attributed to the millennials and their successors being entitled and lazy. This claim is essentially proven baseless, considering the millennial generation is, by the numbers, the most educated, professional, and dedicated generation in the current workforce. Some will say it is a lack of Jesus or some other religious belief to guide our morality and fulfill us; however, the values that were present then don’t necessarily hinge on the existence of a greater power. Finally, some will pin the modern American misery to the lack of financial stability and assistance, If we only had socialized medicine and free college, we would be truly happy. Make no mistake, generations before us had none of that, and still enjoyed a deeper and more fulfilling life.
So, what was it that they had that we lost? In the world of instant information, extreme comfort and luxury, and more technological ability than ever before, what are we so desperately missing? The “Great Generation” from almost a century ago was given a gift that few of us seem to experience these days, hope. They were poor and tired. They had no 401Ks, no air conditioner, no pension plans; however, in their stomachs and in their souls, they knew their lives were their own to control. They were the masters of their own fate.
Ask yourself why you’re not happy. Is it something so surface level as your healthcare deductible? Is it the concern that you might not get a social security check in 40 years? Or is it this nagging feeling in the back of your head that your life is predetermined for you? You try to ignore it, but you always feel the wall keeping you in your place. When you’re in high school, they tell you to take out loans, with no credit, and go to college. You graduate from college only to find out the very loans that got you an education are the obstacles that stop you from enjoying the payoff of the investment of a college degree. You look at your pay stub and realize that your income tax is why you are just scraping by with your bills. Hell, you realize that income tax is the highest bill that you have to pay.
You have a couple bucks left over, and you need to blow off some steam and take the edge off with a drink, damn forgot about that liquor tax. Maybe I’ll just get a soda, oh wait that’s taxed too. Maybe things will be better in my life if I open my own business. Wait, I need a license to sell flowers? My neighborhood is getting pretty bad, maybe I should carry something to protect myself, oh I’m not allowed to have that, either?
It’s not a coincidence. The state of the union has become the state. We haven’t lost the starry eyed optimism of our grandparents, it was stolen from us. It was taken, piece by piece, by a federal government that has decided that they are better at making decisions for us than we are for ourselves.
When I think about where we are, I see a third of millennials not able to buy houses, due to the governments meddling in higher education. I see a single mother turning down promotions, because the welfare system gives her just enough to keep her poor but voting. I see a population fighting a war between Red and Blue, when Red and Blue don’t give a damn about them.
When I think of where we’re going, or better yet where we should and can go, I see my grandfather at 19 stepping onto a Navy ship for the first time during the sunset of true American freedom, a member of the last generation to choose their own way.
This is where our country should go. This is where our country needs to go. I’m not naive or stupid, in regards to this time period, and the eras preceding it. The benefits of liberty were not extended to all, and that, of course, was an egregious injustice. Some will tell you the solution is more. They state nothing specific, just more. More taxes, more government, more restriction, more nonsense. In terms of liberty, there is absolutely no compromise in equality. A society that isn’t free for all is not a free society. The opportunity in front of us is not to return America to greatness, but to make it great for all. The way I see it, we have a decision to make: we can choose true freedom for all or freedom for none. We can choose to accept the shackles of security, or move forward into an uncertain but free nation.
Michael A. Romano