Allen Fuller: Is this who we were meant to be?
June 23, 2013
From the line at the grocery store right across the parking lot to the price tag at the fuel pump, it's hard not to get frustrated these days.
Life in America just feels harder. It's harder to get where we need to go, whether on the highway or through the airport. It's harder to find a job we love. It's harder to find communities where our kids are safe. It's harder to find reruns of "Star Trek."
Maybe our expectations are just too high. Today we complain when our latte doesn't have enough syrup or our bread has too much gluten. We impatiently snort at our phones when an email takes too long to load, never mind the fact that emails, Web pages and videos are beamed miraculously to us across nothing but air.
Is it human nature to ignore the blessings of life and focus maniacally on the imperfect? Are we just spoiled rotten? Or has something really changed?
Economists tell us that consumer confidence is bouncing back. But to be honest, has anyone ever actually met an economist? Who are these nameless, faceless people? Do they all wear thick glasses and bow ties? Can you really trust someone that good at math?
Whoever they are, they are telling us that consumer confidence is bouncing back. What they're not telling us, though, is "bouncing back" means 17 percent of people surveyed think things are "good" as opposed to last month when a tiny 16 percent said things were "good."
This is not encouraging. Where I grew up down South, you could find 17 percent of people to say things were "good" after a tornado blew through town.
They're also not telling us that amid their algorithms and charts and chalk-stained wardrobe, studies still say 28 percent of us think things are "bad."
If a politician were running for office and they were 11 points down in the polls, the media would say they were getting trounced. When it comes to the economy, they say "it's improving."
Why do so many of us think things are bad? Has it always been that way? Of course not. You don't have to put Lucille Ball next to Miley Cyrus to know something has changed radically in America.
It's not all bad. If it weren't for the '70s, Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Ed King probably wouldn't have been high enough to write "Sweet Home Alabama," which is, statistically speaking, the greatest song ever recorded.
What has changed in America more than anything else is the size of government and the role it plays in our daily lives. If you don't believe me, close your eyes for a moment and try to imagine a part of your life that is not impacted by government. Go ahead, we'll wait. Still trying? Don't hurt yourself.
The impact of government is everywhere, and the minute we start to treat it as normal is the minute we resign ourselves to believing that life in America is just going to be hard. When our ancestors came to America, it was not in hopes that they would find a land where the government would regulate which light bulbs to buy. They were leaving a place where life was hard to find a place where, at least if they worked hard, they could get ahead in life. To leave a better future for their children. For us.
Today, we check our phones for the nearest Starbucks but not for the news. We follow the Oscars but not Congress. We want to ignore the sausage making of government then wonder why everything stinks.
Life in America doesn't have to be hard. We can chase our dreams. We just have to realize that because something needs to be done, it's not the government's job to do it.
Let's educate our kids, help our neighbors, save for retirement and don't be afraid to ask the doctor how much something costs.
Let's step up to the plate and take ownership of the course of our lives, our families' future and our nation's destiny.
Let's be the people we were meant to be.
Allen Fuller is a former congressional press secretary and current small-business owner. He is the chief technology adviser to The Steamboat Institute.