You can take America back, but I don’t want to go
For most of my adult life, the people that run this country have told us that we need to go back to a mythical time and place. We’ve been admonished to restore something we’ve lost. They wax poetic about the days when John F. Kennedy inspired us to shoot for the moon and Ronald Reagan confronted the Soviet menace. They’re not happy with today’s America, and they want to take us back.
I don’t want to go.
These are the same people that told American school children that “duck and cover” was the best response to a nuclear attack—because nothing protects you from a wave of radioactive fire quite like hiding under a school desk.
Kidding aside, I’m not pining for days gone by or wishing for another version of America. You shouldn’t either.
Our nation has some serious challenges: American education is falling behind, our workforce isn’t matching our labor demands, and politicians act more like carnival barkers than leaders.
We can bemoan American decline and wish for better days or appreciate the wonderful opportunity we have to actually do something about it.
As a nation, we’re great at feelings and thoughts. Just ask Dr. Walter Palmer—better known as the dentist who killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. If we can express that much collective outrage over a poached lion, we’re not lacking emotion.
We also have tremendous access to information and knowledge. If all traditional learning institutions vanished today, I could learn calculus, hang a door, and make panna cotta thanks to YouTube. We might take that for granted, but technological advances have provided us with some amazing tools. More importantly, we’ve created a society that offers more educational opportunities to more people than any time in our history. You don’t have to be wealthy or connected to learn something useful. It’s far from perfect, but it’s still amazing.
So why are we charmed by nostalgia and offers of better dreams?
Because work is hard.
We’d rather let politicians make empty promises and watch videos of cats falling into fish tanks. That’s the long and short of it.
We have more passion and intellectual capital than we’ve had in a long time, but we lack implementation and work ethic. America isn’t in decline; we’re just scared.
We’re scared that if we change our institutions, we might break something. We’re scared to question the status quo because we might offend someone. We’re scared to step out of the line, because we might not get our turn.
Get over it.
In cased you missed it, that’s not who we are as Americans. That wasn’t Kennedy, it wasn’t Reagan, and it can’t be our national attitude now. We’ll always have challenges, but what makes us Americans is that we take them head on.
Whether it was revolutionary fighters braving the cold Delaware, civil rights marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, or police and firemen running into the dust and debris clouds funneling through New York streets in September of 2001, we’re not strangers to overcoming fear.
We aren’t suffering the effects of inevitable decline; we’re again at one of those points where we shape our future by rolling up our sleeves and rising to the occasion.