The Identity Theft of America
Who are you? Through our culture’s hyper-obsession with social media, there are endless ways to proclaim who we are. We tweet our thoughts, share our photos, comment ad nauseam, and post everything, from the meaningful to the mundane, all in compulsive desire to tell people who we are and to get as many people as we can to like that self-proclaimed identity.
If someone has the gall to challenge our freedom of expression and right to shout our identity from the rooftops, we’ve got picket signs, protests, and social media campaigns on speed dial. In fact, if anyone does anything that even remotely resembles an infringement of our right to self-determination, they better watch out.
Why then has our egocentric, freedom-flaunting society invited the government to define and limit us? Why does our unflinching resolve to say what we want and be who we want turn a blind eye to the laws of our land?
In our single-minded quest to live and act according to our feelings, without the bothersome idea of personal accountability, we have encouraged government policies and the politicians behind them to encroach upon our freedom. One vote, one measure at a time, we have handed over the right to answer for ourselves, “Who are we?”
The Safety Net That Keeps Us Safe From Success
This is painfully apparent in the perversion of America’s social safety net. President Roosevelt established the welfare system as a means to protect citizens against what he called, “the major hazards and vicissitudes [uncertainties] of life.” Like the net beneath trapeze artists, the government established the social safety net to save the lives of the those who fall. They intended for the net to be a momentary landing place from which people could steady themselves and gather the strength to climb up to their trapeze bar, determined to soar to new heights. Unprincipled, sentiment-driven policies, however, have transformed the safety net from a temporary landing place to a permanent level of existence. As more Americans have resigned themselves to less-than lives, where nothing is expected of them and even less is asked of them, the government has had to invest more and more resources in creating a strong, stable place of mediocrity for its people.
With each investment in the net, the government has taken away the building blocks that once allowed its people to climb and reach a platform from which they could soar tenaciously from one success to the next. Between 2004 and 2014, the government’s total welfare spending increased by $250 billion (in 2014 dollars). Over the same time period, the government cut its spending in the category that includes education and training (two things which actually empower people to achieve and succeed) by $19 billion. Today, what was once a strong pillar for upward mobility has become a rickety stilt upon which dreamers and achievers must cautiously balance. Those who manage to reach the top are swiftly rewarded with violent vilification and monetary penalties. Even those who attempt the climb, including the middle class and self-employed, are slapped with disproportionate taxes and ever-increasing healthcare fees.
By demanding that our government invest so heavily in a lower level for us to fall and settle into, we have encouraged the policies of our nation to label us as people who are more likely to fail than succeed, and to give up than to try again. These policies have systematically stolen our identity, piece by piece. This apathetic resignation of our identity flies in the face of our culture’s addiction to self-expression and our extreme revulsion for anyone who dare define us or box us in.
Or, perhaps, this is not a resignation of our identity but a passive admittance of it. Have we, as individuals and as a nation, strayed so far from our nation’s founders who fought with passion and purpose for the right to define themselves? Do we see ourselves as weaklings and watchers who no longer possess the strength, ingenuity, and resilience to do great things? Are we a people, so passive and apathetic, that we’d rather invest more in the predictability of mediocrity than in the pursuit of greatness?
A government that holds people within a narrow margin of existence, even in the name of benevolence, strips its people of their dignity and their right to define themselves on their own terms. And no amount of radical self-expression through social media can erase that.
This November as we face a defining moment for America, two roads -two identities- lay before us. One road will establish us as a nation of people who are comfortable but not courageous, passive instead of powerful, indifferent and not inspiring. On this road, we will penalize the purposeful, empower the complacent, and allow the demands of the discontent to drown out the counsel of the wise. We will trade in the freedom to determine our individual identity and potential for a collective identity that is angry and entitled, fully empowered to hasten towards its own demise.
There is another road, however; one that will tell a far different story. On this path, our nation will declare who we are through our actions and achievements, not our hashtags and likes. We will be a people who understand that freedom is not free, that sacrifice is needed for success, that enduring principles matter more than fleeting pleasantries. The only collective identity we will accept is that of Americans. For the people who choose this road, their American identity is more than a title. It carries with it the uncompromising honor, fearless courage, and dedication to freedom that were once the lifeblood of our nation.
We have this one final opportunity to decide for ourselves who we are, as a nation and as individuals, before the growing weight of rights we have conceded answers those questions for us.
So, I ask you one last time, “Who are you?” How you answer on November 8 will determine your future and that of our nation.
Foundation, Heritage. “Total Welfare Spending.” Medium. N.p., 16 July 2015. Web. 22 Oct. 2016.
“US Government Education, Training, Employment, and Social Services Spending:.” US Government Education, Training, Employment, and Social Services Spending (Yearly, USD). N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2016.