It used to be that America was the land of opportunity. Each person had the chance to strive for his dreams. It was understood that the striving meant working hard, through disappointments and difficulties, and that there was an equal possibility, in any given circumstance, of success or failure.
And while no one likes failure, the important thing about America was that you got the chance to try. As many times as you wanted to. And success came to those who didn’t give up in the face of multiple disappointments.
Whether the American was an inventor like Thomas Edison, with his famous quote about discovering 99 ways that a light bulb would NOT work, or Colonel Sanders, who at an age when most of us are beginning a peaceful retirement, tried 67 different investors before he found one to back him in making his now-famous chicken, the people who built this country understood that sacrifice and perseverance are necessary elements of a successful life.
The fact that the person who was sacrificing or persevering might not feel happy at that particular moment was a reality, not a disaster. It was understood that continuing the effort in spite of feeling "not happy" was part of the process.
That is not the case today.
Today’s America is seeking to be the land of happiness – where everyone can experience success without those nasty "not happy" feelings.
Today, we want the pharmaceutical industry to provide a buffet of drugs so we are not unhappy or uncomfortable. While it is truly wonderful that modern medicine can provide real relief for real sufferings, anyone looking at a television for more than one set of commercials would conclude that we Americans are the most medicated people in the history of the planet.
We want the beauty industry to make sure that we always look 25. Taking proper care of one’s self is appropriate. But we want diets that magically take weight off without exercising or changing eating habits. We want cosmetics, or even surgery, to keep us from facing our own aging and mortality.
And we want the government to guarantee that we will never need to worry about money or health care or retirement – no matter whether we have worked or saved or planned or not. And while it is proper for any society to build a safety net for those who need it, a safety net and universal provision of every desire are not synonymous terms.
In short, we want to be the land where everyone feels happy all the time.
Unfortunately, on this side of heaven, that land does not exist.
Pharmaceuticals can cure illness, but no drug can duplicate the satisfaction and contentment that comes from facing and conquering life’s challenges. Cosmetics can disguise the aging process, but they can’t make it stop. Our own mortality is an inescapable fact of life. And no government can become the provider for its citizens since every resource that government has comes from the goods and services produced by those citizens. If the citizens do not produce anything, the government does not have anything to give them.
Everyone is talking about restoring America. The only way to accomplish that restoration is for we Americans to stop clinging to our fantasy of "the land of happiness" and embrace the unlimited opportunities that this nation offers those who are willing to accept her challenges.
Peg Luksik is the Chairman of the Center for American Heritage. Her weekly column is archived there at www.centerforamericanheritage.com