What Has Happened To Us As Americans?

lazyOne of my all-time favorite quotes is that of President John F. Kennedy when he spoke about our initial trip to the moon:

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

These words displayed the unbreakable will and drive of the United States.  We chose to embark on something that just a decade before was nothing more than science fiction.  To boldly set a goal to accomplish something humankind had never done before.

What the hell happened to us?

The easy answer is to say money has corrupted politics.  Well, I hate to break it to everyone, but no politician gets elected without getting votes—from us.  So when we all (myself included) complain about politicians, we’re the ones to blame.

But I can’t believe money in politics is what killed the unshakable will of the United States, because you see this within our society outside of politics.

Everything seems to be politically correct.  We shelter people from adversity, guard them from failure and coddle them from anything that might hurt them.

It seems now days nobody fails a test because they didn’t study hard enough, or they were lazy—now they have a “learning disability.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to degrade those who really do suffer from some kind of issue such as ADHD or dyslexia, I’ve just known too many people walking around with some kind of prescription for a “learning disability” when the reality is they were just lazy and had bad study habits.

Hell, you’ve even seen “watering down” within our military.  Talk to a veteran, or someone who’s served for a decent amount of years, and they’ll be the first ones to tell you that even basic training isn’t what it used to be.

Children are no longer allowed to lose.  Trophies are for everyone!

Not when I was a kid.  If you wanted a trophy you worked hard and earned it, you didn’t get one just for participating.  If you didn’t succeed, you worked harder to get better so that the next time, you got that damn plastic trophy.

Heck, children’s sports often don’t even keep score anymore.  It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about playing!  Yeah, maybe for the kids 5 and under, but at some point children need to learn everyone isn’t created equal.  Not everyone wins.  Life does keep score and sometimes you lose.

People don’t talk to each other anymore.  Think about that for a moment.  Human beings often avoid using one of the most basic forms of communication we have—simply talking to one another.  Years and years ago when the phone rang, people answered it.  Then came Caller ID and “phone screening.”  We decided at that moment we would pick and choose who we wanted to talk to and when.

Remember the days when a message on the answering machine was almost exciting?  Then came text messaging, emails and instant messaging.  Now a lot of people only respond to those when they feel like it.  They’re too busy taking self-portraits in their bathroom mirror with their iPhone or snapping Instagram photos of their food.  #BecauseWeAllCare

Hell, we even complain about the quality of our news.  But guess what?  The news is based on ratings.  Ratings are based off what we watch.  If we watched real news stories, read articles containing quality news and demanded actual important information instead of updates on Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy or what girl Justin Beiber was seen with during the last Miami Heat game—we’d get more real news.  If we clicked on and read more articles with in-depth analysis on real issues, instead of clicking on and sharing a link simply because it has a hyped-up sensationalized headline—we’d get more real journalism.

As a country, we have to get our edge back.  We talk a lot about being the “greatest nation on earth.”  Well, we need to start acting like it again.

And while we can bitch and moan about our government and our politicians, often rightfully so, the real change we need starts with us.

We need to challenge ourselves and those around us.  And I think we should all strive to live by those words from President John F. Kennedy and remember that the choices we make in life shouldn’t be chosen because they’re easy—but because they are hard.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.

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  • Kevin Talmadge

    Geeourold La Salle ran great, Doze were the daaaaaaaaaaaaaaays!

  • Bob

    It seems like all people want to do anymore is get drunk, get high, and have sex.

    • dtsinidaho

      ahh like the 60’s and 70’s.

    • suburbancuurmudgeon

      People have ALWAYS wanted to do that. The 1960s just brought it out into the open.

  • trojoe

    I failed plenty of tests in high school. Looking back, I can’t believe I did. Now I’d be hard-pressed to think of something I love more than learning. But in high school? That wasn’t the culture I was part of. My high school culture, like many other’s, was about what you have – not how well you do. Shoes, slang, and being “cool” were paramount. So, a possible answer to the title question; whatever happened to us, it started at a young age.

    • suburbancuurmudgeon

      How old are you? My high school culture was getting through it to get the hell out of small-town American. I graduated in 1971.

  • Apathy, ambivalance,selfishness, greed. It always happens to the top dog when he’s been on top too long. Without the challenge, without the threat of failure, without tangible consequences for not trying, the motivation and drive disappears. Look at the average guy on the street, and he’ll say all kinds of patriotic nationalistic shit when questioned on it. When he goes home though, all that concerns him is making sure his life is secure, and everything else can take care of itself. Might sound harsh, and I’m sure many will take offense and protest, but it’s true. It is the minority that is willing to look to the future, to risk what they have, to give some of what they have, who worry about where we’ll be tomorrow. The rest count on that guy to keep the momentum going, to keep the achievements and dominance in coming and steady. We are all about enjoying the rewards of past achievements, not creating new achievements the next generation can benefit from.

  • marilynclay

    What happened to us? Glen Beck. Fox News. Rush Limbaugh, They stripped away the value of caring about the common good.

    • unclemoncle

      But we don’t have to watch them. Use you brain!

      • suburbancuurmudgeon

        WE don’t watch them but plenty of others do.

  • dtsinidaho

    The kids today, are SMARTER than their grandparents by far. They know more, they are more experienced, but in reality they are still kids. Has the Media corrupted them, or made them more aware of the diversity around us, and that things like making fun of handicapped kids is wrong.

    I see NOTHING in this generation that is worse than My generation (Grad HS 1976) Now we were lazy and pot smokers. I see these kids all the time, and those that are screwed up are the ones with Screwed up parents. Don’t blame the kids.. they are just learning. And they are swinging away from the greed of the world. Yes, they have wants more than they have money.

    THAT is where the parenting comes in. Want something.. work for it. Period.

    • Mary Mclean

      I completely agree. This generation of young people amazes me. These children are more accepting of others and much more open minded. These young people are working hard to get into good universities and onto making a positive contribution to the world. There is a new definition of what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a man. I am sure we will see more men in care giving roles and more women in decision making; both respected equally. this generation will face many obstacles because they see the world differently and that scares the older generations. They shun corporations and greed. Students now study harder than my generation, 1970’s, and are much better people than we could hope to be. I don’t blame the children I blame the adults for handing down a world that the children will need to save. We need to get out of their way.

  • Roseanne O’Connor

    People don’t answer the phone anymore because of those darn telemarketers! A law had been passed that they couldn’t call us anymore or we could list our phone number on a “no call” list; but now it has become OK for the telemarketers to call us again! Can’t stand those pests!
    And I think the children’s sports have become too competitive; the parents have taken the fun out of it for the kids; it’s just a game! The parents have taken it too far; they are too serious and are living through their children. Some parents have started verbal assaults on other parents, fights, assaults and even deaths have occurred over a kid’s game! Give it back to the kids and have the parents stay out of it!

    • suburbancuurmudgeon

      Yeah, when we played our parents weren’t around. We made our own rules and solved our own disagreements. We played for fun, not for blood.

  • Echo Moon

    this all started long before beck, limbaugh and fox. people decided that the US was the best in the world and there for didn’t need to put forth any more effort. there are still people who push the boundaries and who still challenge themselves. but they are being drowned by the lazy loafers who expect to simply surf thru life. and those lazy surfers are being taught that it’s ok to do that by indulgent parents. parents who give to much to their kids and expect everyone else to do so also.

    • Roseanne O’Connor

      And why are you picking on the surfers, Echo? Such a small miniority; where did that come from?!

      • Echo Moon

        surfers??? the kind of people that float thru life….. the ones that simply skate thru life??? the type of people who skim on the top of life’s surface??? or are you talking about actual ocean type surfers with boards??? i sincerely hope your not blond!!!

  • Michelle589

    Failure is just as important as victory. Failure is a litmus test of introspection; it informs us of how much work we did and how much more we need to do to achieve success. If everything is handed to you, you will become dependent upon others for your own self worth and affirmation. Just like obnoxious parents at sporting events depend on their children for their own affirmation. Stop living vicariously through your children; it’s not about you.

  • Mr. Smith

    A big problem is we cant beat our kids when they misbehave anymore.

  • Justin

    I myself am diagnosed with a learning disability, Asperger’s Syndrome. I could have chosen to have gone on assisted living, had people hold my hand for the rest of my life etc. instead, I’m in college with a 4.0 GPA and am a peer mentor in the assisted learning department of my school. If this Canadian Aspie can do it, so can anyone else.

  • theworldaccordingtoyarp

    No. This essay is full of no. Though inspirational for sure, JFK’s moving speech about going to the moon was nothing less than damn good writing on behalf of his speech writers. The US was motivated to get to the moon first in order to beat the Russians (who were at the time embroiled in a long Cold War with us, as you will remember) and it wasn’t necessarily the “drive” of Americans to go to the moon as it was to get to the top first and scream “nana-nana-boo-boo”. Therefore, the whole theme of this argument seems to be nothing more than a flippant, nonsensical bluster incorporating the very tired “back in my day…” rant and adding a dash of 1960s profundity to make it seem like a credible complaint. Last week it was the “Me Me Me Generation” and tomorrow it’s “these damn kids with their damn iPhones…”. Frankly, I don’t give a damn for these kinds of so-called essays that glosses over an entire population of people by painting them all as one demographic. It’s annoying and shows a lack of understanding of the bigger picture. So if you’re gonna drop some JFK on this bitch, better be keeping it real, yo!

    • suburbancuurmudgeon

      What is the bigger picture? We have a generation of self-absorbed idiots who don’t want to work hard, don’t understand delayed gratification, want to make tons of money just because they exist and can’t engage in a conversation with a live person. Tell me what I’m missing.

  • sguinness

    We have been beaten down by stagnant wages, wars, and spiraling costs of higher education and health care. We have become cynical of our government because leaders have lied to us and helped the wealthiest become uber wealthy while the rest of us work harder just to stay even. This didn’t just happen, it’s been going on for decades. Now we have a President that has good ideas, wants to create better jobs, but is constantly blocked by people we elected to go to Washington and work for us. But they don’t work for us, they work for themselves. Their hatred towards the President is greater than their concern for their constituents. This is the country we leave to our children. Can they fix it? Maybe, but I fear they will be working too hard to make a living and paying off student debt to have the time to facilitate real change.

    • Roseanne O’Connor

      It is so hard here in the States, I can’t even help put my son through college. So I have no choice but to move to another country with a better economy to help us both. That’s the state of the world we live in, folks and you do what you gotta do to survive.

  • That comic is a politician today, but he would be wearing a custom made suit, surrounded in luxury, sipping a million dollar latte and asking us to pay for more to fatten his cat and continue to sit on his a–.

  • sparkkeh

    It’s frustrating to see this on a progressive page – this is the same old crap spewed out by the right wing for generations. The truth is, we – the previous two or three generations – those of us who are … 35 and up? – have CRUSHED the hope that the younger people are supposed to have. Graduate, get a job, work hard, retire? It doesn’t work that way anymore. We allowed wages to stagnate, hard fought workers rights to be taken away. We allowed the right wing to take over the government and spend 30 years on “trickle down” economics so that everything is so f***ed up that the younger generation looks around and says, I won’t be able to survive on the jobs I can find, if I’m lucky enough to find one. What’s the point? We’ve let schools become training grounds for prisons, where the things that were minor offenses when I was in school (Class of 1996) are now offenses that can get you arrested – if you’re lucky you only get suspended or expelled. Yeah, they have texting and phones and internet and facebook. But they have to deal with all the negatives that come with that, while still dealing with everything we had to deal with AND THEN SOME. Pass notes in class? Get suspended. Wear the wrong color shoelaces to school? Suspended. Bring their dads lunch by accident and have a disposable plastic butter knife intended to cut an apple? Get expelled. Parents more than ever having to work more hours/longer hours, so they can’t be home with them because they’re trying to keep a roof over their head and food in their mouths, so there’s not a lot of structure after school especially among lower income families where the jobs are often odd or rotating shifts. These kids SEE that the bullshit we’re feeding them – work hard and you too can succeed – is just that. BULLSHIT. They see people bust their asses 40 to 60 to 80 hours a week to barely freaking scrape by. These kids are dealing with things most of us never dealt with: seeing their friends homeless, if they’re lucky enough not to be. TWENTY TWO PERCENT of children in the US live in poverty. TWENTY… TWO… PERCENT. One child out of five. You think that doesn’t affect the entire generation? It does.

    “The younger generation” hasn’t fucked anything up yet – they haven’t had a chance to. The truth is, WE HAVE GONE AND FUCKED IT UP FOR THEM. We have allowed this right wing takeover of our country that has made everything worse. WE have allowed their future to be put at risk.

    HOW DARE YOU blame it on the younger generation? It was US. Not them. US.

    • Roseanne O’Connor

      I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said, spark. And frankly, it’s gone so far, I don’t see how it can be turned around or made right. I feel sorry for the younger generation. 🙁

  • Bill Rayburn

    I couldn’t disagree more. The blame, from my point of view, lies squarely with our politicians. I’m an involved, intelligent American who can do no more than vote my conscience and hope beyond hope that the politico I am voting for hasn’t lost his. There was a time in this country not too terribly long ago where actual statesmen and diplomats ran Washington, but where today we are left to entrust our votes to self involved shyster lawyers full of self promotion and partisanship who could not on their best days define ‘diplomacy’ or tell us what it means to give of oneself. Term limits and a viable third party are the only means to rid ourselves of our current political malaise.

  • Jojo

    Personally I beleive that since USSR turned to gorund, it also dimmed down the motivation among ppl to have a rival to compete with.Life became easy and in heaven.They didn’t need to fear anyone but the creation of someone ‘out there’ as told by coming govts.

  • Ken Carman

    Here’s what happened: being “on the right side,” became more important than truth, honest, family relations: being human. We are becoming the Taliban.

    Ken Carman

  • 1984 Universe

    The overriding issue that has hurt our society is the systematic break down of the family, corruption both public and private, and the return of torture and slavery. It is also dangerous when we allow lawyers to rule our land and not the people.