There is something quite wrong with this country—that much is obvious and certain. People say that, but no one really defines what that problem is. If you do meet someone who can offer up a definition, what you will hear will typically include various topics ranging from Government, to business, to greed, etc., etc...
However, the very real problem is not the institutions that have been established—if they are indeed the problem, then these problems we seem to be experiencing just recently would have always existed. I think everyone would agree (falsely as it turns out) that life was better then than it is now. That those who came before were somehow smarter (they probably were) and purer towards God (they weren't) and that we have deviated from their standard and plunged ourselves into darkness.
The reason we cannot compare ourselves to those that founded this country is because of the simple, immutable fact that the world is very different now than it was then. What do I mean different? Aside from the very complex issues of racial equality or inequality, or wealth balance or imbalance, or any of the other very specific things that Americans routinely grip about, the biggest difference is that the world is bigger now than it was three hundred years ago. Not only literally; within fifty years of the revolution we were expanding ever westward and growing own borders, while other countries and ourselves made pilgrimage after pilgrimage abroad as well—but also abstractly.
Each generation is categorized by three things: The tragedies it endures, The industry it pioneers, and the arts and monuments it leaves behind. For us, the tragedy is very obvious and ever lasting; we cannot hide from the shadow of those giant buildings—nor should we. They were testaments to our ingenuity, just as the aftermath of their destruction has been a testament to our resolve to never give up our way of life.
Our generation, depending on where you believe our generation begins, has also been responsible for the next great industrial evolution—not revolution. Our parents generation was all about continuing the trends of the past, working away in factories and building things, such as our cars and our buildings. If not this pursuit, our parents hunted down college educations, which became more common as middle class wealth increased. For us, we have developed or benefited (used loosely) from an information based industry. Instead of smoke spouting factories, we have constructed infinite highways of invisible information, technology that is so advanced that we have yet to ascertain its true capabilities. All of this is exciting, and it is this direction that will drive the spirit of our innovation.
And that innovation will ultimately lead to the art we leave behind. Perhaps the internet will be our calling card, perhaps something some young man or woman reading this will paint will live on forever as a microcosm of all that we were.
But how do we get there? Right now, it is impossible to deny that we are stuck, that we are lacking the fundamental forward progress of our fathers. Why? Are we less intelligent? No. In fact, on average, quite the opposite is true. We know things now that even Jefferson, with all of his intellectual prowess could never have fathomed—the human genome, evolution, penicillin as just a few examples. So why are we unable to achieve the greatness that we are destined to achieve?
I do not have the answer to these questions—no one does. The critics of our generation will call us lazy, they will delude the minds of those older into thinking we have done this to ourselves, that achievement is easy. It is not. For every billionaire is just a queen bee, sustained by the sweat of those less fortunate, creatures who have but one task—work for another.
That takes us back to the true source of the American Flaw—the misconception of the American Dream. What is it? The first thought that pops into every person's head will undoubtably be a white picket fence establishing a perfect square perimeter around a perfectly mowed and perpetually green yard. I bet the house is bricked, and the deck has an American Flag hanging off of it in most people's mental picture.
What is wrong with that image? For some, nothing. Such an idea can be achieved and probably sustained with a simple life—being a teacher, an auto-worker—something that has a set lifespan and a set wage counter. By indoctrinating this idea into our collective cultural subconsciousness, the keepers of our country have stripped away the inherent desire that every human being truly has—the desire for more.
I am not ashamed to admit that I want more. There is no limit to the amount that I desire to take for myself. But I do not wish to thieve it, I wish to earn it. I do not see myself as exceptional, but I do see myself as capable of exceptionality. I, unlike others, do not believe that this is a rare and mysterious gift possessed only by a few; that belief is what has fostered one of the real problems with the people in this country—the willingness to settle.
A simple search and scan amongst those you know will reveal that much to you; we all know a girl who accidently got pregnant and, even without feeling love for him, married the father. Why? Because it was the easy choice, because even though that feeling wasn't there, it was good enough. Instead of casting out and taking a chance, the girl went with the comfortable choice—the choice that required minimal additional sacrifice.
I don't know what I am going to do with myself. Perhaps I don't place enough emphasis on tomorrow, and it's obvious that I definitely didn't used to. Living in the moment is dangerous, but it is within that realm that we are able to truly let go and live. There is a future out there, yes, but let it be in the future.
If we do look to the future, we have to realize that the future is naturally uncertain. Ironically, this is because we don't take into account the present actions that will ultimately create (notice I did not say influence or any synonym of it) that future. The future is a swirling vortex of gray uncertainty—a nebulous hue without form that shifts, breaks, bends, collapses, and rebuilds itself with whimsical abandon. It is not random, but it is not preordained. The very essence of the future or contemplating it results in a mind numbing paradox that ultimately leads to a point beyond human understanding.
To exemplify, let us examine the girl and her baby. After choosing her babies father out of apparent necessity and comfort, she finds herself struggling with a very common mid-life crisis in her later years. Perhaps she has lived a moderately happy life, perhaps she has not—Such a distinction is not, in the end, particularly important. As her child becomes an adult, the apparent necessity that drove her towards that life will dissolve and no longer be of any relevance. This creates a typical paradigm of a disgruntled housewife. At this juncture, because it is no longer necessary to live for or pretend and feign happiness for the benefit of a child, such weak structures of domestication will collapse. The woman will now seek to live for herself having not been able to do so for the majority of her life.
And that, in my opinion, is simultaneously the greatest beauty, and greatest tragedy of the dilemma of life. At this point, it is very difficult for our subject to live for herself because she has spent so much of her life sacrificing herself for the good of others; this results in very little self to live for, or, worse off, very little self to die for.
For those who do not give in to such situations, or who are able to avoid them all together—one is always living for themselves, but has no barometer to measure the self and the selfless against because they have never lived for another.
Humanity is always in opposition to itself. It feeds off of the paradoxes inherent in its shrewed and shabby system. These simultaneous failures and successes give us the yard stick by which we will ultimately measure our own lives—a measurement that will never, no matter what, be what we wanted it to be.