America is a nation in economic decline. But that reality isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
My friend Larry Walsh said on Facebook yesterday:
What neither Obama or Romney is telling us is the world we’ve known for the past 70 years is over and not coming back. Both parties are trying to control the decline of the U.S. standard of living long enough to avoid having to take responsibility. Pathetic.
It’s an interesting statement that has some truth to it. Most people already know the era of American economic domination is over, but we’re addicted to the idea that we’re number one. And like good addicts, we’re masters of denial.
When I was a kid, I was full of insecurities. Insecurity over my parent’s divorce, my brother’s death, my illnesses and my lack of popularity at school. But I always took some comfort in the fact that no matter how shitty life could be, I was still an American. Therefore, I was still a higher form of life than someone in my predicament who was living in France, Mexico, Saudi Arabia or some war-torn land like Afghanistan.
Back then we Americans felt pretty good about ourselves, because Ronald Reagan told us we should. I always thought that was Reagan’s best quality — lifting our sense of self-worth and destiny, no matter how messy our personal lives were. Fast-forward 30 years and all the folks who idolize the ghost of Reagan like a god are grousing that President Obama is presiding over the decline of America. But the truth is that America’s slide started long before Obama took office.
That’s right: America is sliding from the pedestal is sat upon since the end of World War II. The oil crisis and inflation of the 1970s couldn’t knock it over. So what gives?
I have my theories, which may or may not be accurate. I think, as Larry suggested, that we’ve been clinging to the false notion that we can restore America to its past glory. But I don’t think it’s that America has lost its ability to compete and shine. It’s simply the fact that technology has made the world a smaller place and the Internet has empowered people from around the world in unprecedented ways. You could say it’s leveled the global playing field.
That may mean that we don’t get to be number one anymore. But so what?
Personally, I’m happier in the face of our national decline. I have my shit together in ways I could only dream of in the 1980s. I have family and friends I adore. I see people conducting themselves with valor in the face of adversity every day. And nationality has nothing to do with it. It’s about personal will, heart and faith.
I see fellow Americans shining at everyday life. And I see friends from around the world doing the same.
Are we Americans going to have to work harder for our slice of the pie in the years to come? Perhaps. But, really now, have we ever gotten anywhere without busting our balls every day? If you’re independently wealthy maybe you have. But most people I know have never had it easy.
Larry’s right: The world we’ve known for 70 years is gone and isn’t coming back. Presidential candidates will never tell you that because their profession is to tell you exactly what you want to hear. So it’s up to us to face reality and get over it.
Fuck being the number-one nation on Earth. Let’s focus on being better human beings regardless of nationality.
I’ve never been much of a Billy Joel fan. But he once sang a lyric that’s always resonated with me: “The good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow’s not as bad as it seems.”
Ain’t that the truth?