America the Miserable

My daughter’s college graduation last weekend was the first convocation held at the university since 2019. Although everyone was grateful for a return to normalcy, the pandemic still clouded the ceremonies; professors recounted the ways in which the students’ lives had been upended, commending them for soldiering on despite the unprecedented disruption. 

Their praise only acted as a cruel reminder of the time, friendships, and experiences needlessly and irretrievably lost.

Campus, of course, never really returned to anything close to normal. Remote classes stifled learning; mask mandates and social distancing rules stifled activity. Any mild bump in local cases prompted stern warnings from the dean that soul-crushing lockdowns could return. What should have been one of the most enjoyable periods in their lives will be remembered instead as a black hole of fear and isolation.

Visibly weary, her classmates gathered on Saturday afternoon to trudge across the finish line. But their torment was not yet over. The same adults who enforced Medieval disease policies under the guise of modernity and science and who stole a big chunk of their youth had to take one last swipe at their high-paying captives.

One speaker after another harangued the students about their duty to confront every societal ill, real or perceived. According to the Betters with Letters seated on the dais, life isn’t about pursuing individual passions or creating a vibrant social life, or—God forbid—raising a family. Personal fulfillment can only be attained by acting as one-man armies in the woke war against -isms and -phobes, the keynote speaker—a man who presumably hasn’t left a college campus in any professional capacity since his 18th birthday—admonished the crowd.

America quite literally took a back seat during the proceedings; one U.S. flag sat among an assortment of flags far behind the stage. When asked to rise for the national anthem, it took everyone a few moments to locate where Old Glory had been stashed. Few participated in singing along with the vocalist, and even fewer held their hands over their hearts.

After we exited the building, news spread of the horrific massacre that took place about 150 miles away. And several hours later, partygoers celebrating their last moments of college were fleeing for safety near the town’s two most popular bars as a gunman opened fire, shooting one employee in the stomach.

America, 2022.

Make America Happy Again

Happiness is so central to the health of the nation that the founders wisely included a mention of it in the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence. And the right to the pursuit of happiness, they noted, isn’t something conferred by the state but is God-given and a right the government cannot legitimately take away. Seeking happiness isn’t just a self-serving endeavor but the basis of a free, functioning society. “The necessity of pursuing happiness is the foundation of liberty,” John Locke wrote in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

Of course, one does not need to be a philosopher or Declaration signer to understand the concept. As the character Elle Woods noted in “Legally Blonde,” “happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.”

A country filled with happy people thrives. Happy citizens root for each other’s successes, show kindness, and fiercely reject attempts to strip away sources of happiness. A country filled with miserable people is a gift to those in charge because miserable subjects permit their rulers to do just about anything in a vain hope they eventually show mercy and make the misery stop.

America is not just unhappy. with few exceptions, it’s a miserable place. 

Pandemic lockdowns revealed that a sizable portion of the American populace is miserable and desperately wants to keep others in misery, too. Packed football stadiums, fun-loving beachgoers, and standing-room-only concert venues rip at their bitter souls. And we’re not talking about random cat ladies shuttered in dull apartments—the country’s most powerful people and interests are gratified at the sight of suffering.

How else to explain the nation’s current condition? Every metric confirms collective and individual malaise; only 16 percent of Americans, according to a recent poll, think the country is headed in the right direction, a figure just a few points higher than the all-time low of 12 percent during the economic crash of 2008. Seventy-five percent agree we are headed in the wrong direction.

Inflation is at a 40-year high, prompting families to make tough decisions as prices for the necessities skyrocket. On Thursday, the Washington Post reported how some Americans are taking extraordinary measures just to make ends meet. Reporter Kyle Swenson told the story of a Louisiana school teacher who started donating her plasma twice a week to earn the extra $400 to $500 she needs to care for herself and her two teenagers amid rising costs for everything from gasoline to groceries. 

“There are times I feel like this should not be my life,” Christina Seal, 41, told Swenson. “I went to college to get a degree that isn’t even paying me what I deserve. I just get frustrated that I shouldn’t have to be doing this.” (Swenson, of course, failed to assign any political blame for the situation.)

What could possibly make a person more miserable than having a stranger stick a needle in your arm twice a week for nearly an hour just to collect gas money? Yet the media and political leaders accept this as the new normal.

More than 100,000 of our countrymen overdosed on fentanyl last year, an all-time high. Crime is rampant and spilling into city neighborhoods and suburbs once immune to chronic violence. The mental well-being of America’s teens, already in a precarious state before the lockdowns, is now in freefall. Last year, leading health organizations declared a national emergency related to the mental health crisis among children and teens. The U.S. surgeon general followed up with a separate bulletin. Emergency room visits for girls ages 12 to 17 suffering from tics nearly tripled; visits for eating disorders among the same group doubled.

Parents of infants and toddlers can’t find baby formula.

Meanwhile, the political leadership of both parties in the nation’s capital fixate on issues beyond our borders in what can only be described as a complete dereliction of duty flirting with surrender. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his Republican Senate toadies traveled last weekend not to the southern border—the site of the largest number of illegal crossings in U.S. history last month—but to Kyiv to grovel before the president of Ukraine, who these days seems to be the sole constituent of the GOP in Washington. A few days later, those same Republicans voted along with Senate Democrats to send $40 billion in “aid” to Ukraine. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) promised the funds will help the Ukrainian people “fight for their survival.”

At least Volodymyr Zelenskyy, his cronies, and the Beltway war machine are very happy.

Christina Seal and her fellow plasma donors were unavailable for comment.

Sadly, the name-caller-in-chief occupying the White House has no interest in promoting happiness across the land. A narcissist who makes everything about himself (even when called to perform routine presidential duties such as comforting the parents of fallen soldiers on his watch), Biden is the only hero in his own exaggerated stories, consuming all the glory and shouldering none of the blame. When criticized, he, and he alone, is the victim. Mild pushback results in tyrannical, incoherent outbursts; adversaries are dehumanized as racists, killers, traitors, and terrorists. 

The media plays along with his delusions. No punishment is too severe for the detractors of the regime. Carl Cameron, once considered a serious newsman or at the very least a sane person, this week suggested that Biden should imprison anyone on the Right who promotes the “great replacement theory.”

The more misery that clearly miserable people like Cameron can inflict, the better. Why? Misery loves company. And unfortunately for America—a country founded on the principle that the right to pursue happiness is a human yearning and not simply a by-product of some government statute—the merchants of misery will be in charge for a long time.

 

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