Gongol.com Archives: May 2024

Brian Gongol

May 29, 2024

The United States of America Not because they are easy

The most important words spoken by John F. Kennedy as President had nothing to do with what you can do for your country or being a Berliner. What were probably his most important words came when, asking the country to embrace the Apollo missions and related tasks, he urged, "not because they are easy, but because they are hard." ■ From a basic material standpoint, things generally have never been easier for the vast majority of Americans. Real per-capita GDP has never been higher. Inflation arrests much of the attention, but unemployment is low, basic quality-of-life goods have never been more prevalent, and new technological tools are being introduced at a breakneck pace. ■ Why, then, is so much of public opinion so sour (Gallup says that 74% of us think America's on the wrong track)? Why are so many people quick to express listlessness, dissatisfaction, or ennui? Grown adults insist on presenting themselves to all the world like angsty teenagers. ■ Perhaps we have stewed too long in a cultural broth that improbably blends the prosperity Gospel, a toxic "YOLO" fixation on perpetual self-care, and a generalized sort of impatience. And in committing so much energy to making things easier (or at least in making them feel that way) that we've gotten away from equipping people with the tools to grapple with what's hard. ■ We need more voices, respected ones, willing to challenge us to do hard things because the process of doing hard things is good for us, as individuals and as a country. It does us no good to be both soft and agitated, simultaneously restless and unfocused, looking always for the escape rather than the path through the difficulty. ■ It doesn't need to be the work of a President, necessarily, but someone needs to revive a sense of intrinsic appreciation for challenge. There's no shortage of tasks to be undertaken.

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