Did your candidate win? I hope not, but I know that some of you think things are finally going to improve and the rest will think things will get worse.
Only one of you is right. Now that the election is over, nothing is going to get better. Nothing. Nada. I couldn’t be more certain of this. You won’t be any happier or more content with where we’re going as a country tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year.
Soon enough, you’ll experience the same dread you felt before the election, and instead of looking in the mirror for the problem, you’ll point fingers. You’ll blame your neighbor, or even a long-time friend, or another state, or the Russians, or maybe cosmic waves. You won’t see yourself as the problem, which is too bad, because you are.
All that energy you just expended fretting about this election served only to age you a bit faster and cause you to lose a friend or two. Bickering over candidates hardly worthy of the jobs they seek cost you dearly. You’ll retreat into your bubble, commiserate with your tribe, compare your emotional scars, and get riled up about the next election.
But you won’t be happy no matter who wins, and if you are, it won’t last long. Soon the emotion bubbling in your brain right now will fizz away.
Your guy won? Yay! You now feel elation or maybe relief. Not to worry. You’ll soon feel that familiar sense of impending doom and disgust once again.
Your guy lost? Bummer! You feel outrage or contempt. Soon enough, you’ll hear of a plan afoot to undermine that victory, and you eagerly anticipate the soothing schadenfreude when your tribe stymies the desires of the other. This will also dissipate.
Either way, it’ll all go back to normal, which is to say more misery and discontentment. Really. It will. I’m not telling you something you don’t already know.
Why aren’t you happy?
You aren’t happy with the direction of our country simply because you belong to a tribe that stands to benefit from a policy favored by your candidate at the expense of the tribe that voted for the other guy. Like any conflict between evenly matched warring tribes, the fighting will never end until there’s nothing left to fight for. That’s the future staring us in the face right now.
I know what you believe. You believe that if we just get rid of [your particular political irritant], we’ll finally right the ship; we will heal; that our country will be great again; name your platitude.
But that won’t happen. And if you get even a semblance of what you want, you won’t be happier. And the country on balance won’t be better.
How do I know this? History.
Two objective measures of what your government has done to make you happy is the Federal Register and the Federal budget. This Federal Register lists every the law and regulation passed by Congress up until that year. The first Register had 2,620 pages. In 2019, it weighed in at 72,436 pages.
Since 1946, government per capita spending has quadrupled. Do you think our country is on net better now than it was in 1946? Would you say that we as Americans have become five times happier or better off?
If only the government would do just a little bit more, we’ll be happy. No. You won’t. You just voted for someone who promised you exactly that, and you bought into it. You fell for the lie. Again.
You know that feeling you get when you see a loved one doing the same self-destructive thing over and over again? Return to the abusive partner? Blow their savings at the casino? Fall back into an addiction? That’s how I feel about you.
I’ve always looked at voting as a measure of self-respect, not unlike choosing a spouse. And drunk on your own rage, you just voted for the skank you eyed through beer goggles at closing time.
With any luck, you’ll sober up before the next election, but I doubt it. We’ll fumble through another four year hangover of lies, corruption, war, and general decline.
You won’t listen to me. You’ll follow your tribe. You’ll continue down that road thinking it will take you where you want to go. But you’ll end up in the same ditch, and you’ll take the rest of us with you.
What will make you happy?
You could start with not being such a nudnik or thinking that the world owes you something. You can drop this notion that forcing the other tribe to do what you think is best works for us all. It doesn’t.
You can also shed your belief that there’s something about you that makes you in any way deserving of special treatment or something about someone else that makes them less worthy of the air we all must breathe.
You’re just another individual like me or anyone else, and the only right you have is the expectation of living your life unmolested by nudniks and anyone else out to cause you material harm.
Isn’t this what we teach our children? Don’t hurt others? Don’t take their stuff? At what point does that no longer apply? How is that wrong for us to impose ourselves upon others, but having proxies to do the hurting and the taking becomes acceptable?
While you’re at it, stop thinking this country is a horrible place. It’s not perfect by any means, but consider this: Ours was the first society in ten thousand years of human history founded upon the principles of individual rights and self-government. The. First. One.
But, but, slavery! Our country was born into an overtly racist world with slaves on every continent. Every other government was either authoritarian or despotic or worse.
The people who drafted the plan for our society knew they weren’t angels, but they nevertheless gifted us a roadmap away from the oppression experienced by everyone else on the planet not a royal or a warlord.
Seriously. This is all you need to understand: You actually have it pretty good, and leave others alone. Once you accept that, once you finally heal yourselves, we can fix things and move forward and live up to our potential. We can actually work together — or separately — to make ourselves happy, expecting nothing from no one, and finding ourselves pleasantly surprised as we discover the capacity for human nature to do good deeds and achieve great things.
If you don’t understand how the gift slips away, if you can’t see the slippery slope and what lubricates it, if you do not see how you feed this beast with the hatred you seethe at people you refuse to speak to, if you won’t stop, look around, and realize that for all its flaws, you live within civilization’s noblest experiment and enjoy many benefits it already bestowed upon us, our communities, and indeed the entire world, then you are a lost cause and are unworthy of the happiness you seek.
Perhaps we do get the democracy we deserve, but for those of us who seek nothing but the benefits from a life lived without the interference from — or any demands upon — someone else’s, we deserve better than what you and your tribe have brought upon us. Please just stop it. Enough is enough.