July 4th, our Independence Day, passed. Our nostalgic selves aimed our eyes upward as the crackling of a million fireworks lit up the American skies this past week. We wore our red, our white and our blue as a tribute to American flag and our nation. For the 15 minutes of fireworks, we probably forgot the problems of the nation and of the world. We forgot about the unemployment rate. The healthcare debate. The blistering heat. The troubles abroad. The polarizing election of 2012.
We forgot because we wanted to forget. Ignorance is bliss for 15 minutes.
Aren't we entitled to the fifteen minutes of bliss? We are America, dammit. America is the country that ripped away from the daunting British Empire, and has grown plenty in the last 236 years. From 13 colonies to 50 states, stretching from sea to shining sea. Our population exceeded 312 million souls in 2012. We are the greatest force in the world economically, militaristically and socially. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave. We are America, dammit.
The narrative deserves the nostalgia, but this narrative is incomplete. The story goes beyond the courage of the Revolutionary War, the adventurous Louisiana Purchase, the titans of industry with oil and railroads, the bravery of two World Wars, and other countless episodes for the defenders of freedom. It sounds like a wonderful story with principle, ideals and heroism. Again, the story is incomplete.
The story includes reality television conveying the furthest thing from reality, extreme polarization of political ideologies, social hatred based on the the pigment of our skins, worship of false idols in the form of celebrities and athletes. Let's get specific: We actually shoot each other with guns (Google "Shootings in Chicago" for factoids). A prominent university guarded a child rapist because he was closely connected with the football program. We purchase magazines (People, Us Weekly, Star Magazine) to learn about the marriages, happenings and babies's names of people who play Pretend and Dress-up for a living (actors). We pass a helpless, sidewalk-bound man asking for a quarter, probably allowing our iPhone to distract us from his deprivation. People actually inhale a substance that causes a litany of health problems and empties their wallets. We'd rather communication via a website that posts our pictures, information and latest trivial episodes in our lives than in-person. Oh, and will Joey and Teresa ever kiss and make up??
Stepping back from the nostalgia, can't we honestly reflect on our shortcomings? Through the phenomenon of evolution, we have created a system to live. We can automatically create fire, purchase food, bathe and use the washroom, lodge overnight, et cetera. Paradoxically, through the advancements of technologies and magnificent discoveries, the average person regressed. We have regressed to children, sucking on the tit of the system, surviving each day without much effort. Our necessities of life are taken for granted. Our "utopian" society developed into a bloated machine to make you wonder if something horrible were to happen, how would we fend for ourselves? Do we have the mental fortitude and self-reliance to survive if the system crashed? Where would the hero come from?
George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin (to name a few of the important guys 236 years ago) envisioned a great nation, but at what expense? Did Franklin want to see a social regression? Did John Adams want to see political wars on our home soil? Did Washington want America to chase every single "wrong doer" in the world and act as the global police? These men possessed a strength that demanded self-reliance. They called on a nation of people to do so, and the citizens answered the call.
Now, we are awkwardly living our lives in the system and cannot extract our souls without forfeiting the multitude of habits we unfortunately allow poison the society. This is a social epidemic. We are weak. Very weak.
Can't we test ourselves again? Through effort, grit, sweat and tears can we tackle the problems and create heroes again? Only through these trials can we find out what our society is made of. We can start small. Buy that homeless guy a lunch, he'll appreciate it. Smile at your fellow man. Erase negative feelings if a person has a different pigment of skin. Put down the remote and plant something. Each person knows his or her limits. Seize it at your pace. But always try to seize it.
We lack skill and dexterity - the very definition of being awkward. I just wish we could recapture the strength that once was. We can. After all, we are America, dammit.