American Values

It’s painfully clear that America is unsatisfied; just look at the marchers on Wall Street, the economic depression, more support for political parties advocating “radical change.” We are not pleased with our current situation.

“Family Values” is about as rhetorically ambivalent as ‘Terrorism,’” says April Salcher. So what we should be asking is, what does America want to be satisfied?

In my opinion, Americans want to have  society be a safe and stable place, where people can raise their children in security, trusting the government is providing a place to raise children with “American Values.” They want a place where success for all is tangible, where they can take risks without suffering through losses, and where they are given the rights to prosperity and happiness they deserve. When it comes to what we desire as a people, Judith Acosta sums it up well:

“We want to be healthy without having to eat well, sleep through the night or exercise regularly. We want happiness and love and contentment without ever having to suffer or sacrifice. And we want it now.”

It also seems to me, these values are, in some ways, just a figment of our imagination, because life is not a perfect thing where everything can go our way… as we have seen. We cannot have happiness without experiencing sorrow, we won’t even appreciate it to its full extent without the negative emotion to compare it to. So… because “We should be thankful for living in a country with “Family Valuesm,”(Salcher) why are things still so messed up?

I think our “American values” are taught to us and formulated in our minds as very good things: we want to love each other, you know, emphasize the Golden Rule, be ethical and optimistic and hopeful. Those are all great things. But we really haven’t seen them enacted in our society,  most obviously lacking in our economy and big moneyholders of our country.

Americans,  especially the lower class, have tended to vote Republican recently: the party that is advocating for preserving Family Values and keeping America the place we know and love. But if family values involve happiness and success, they why do these people vote against the legislation, like for universal health care, that would directly benefit their demographic? If people are voting solely on their personal values, then, they are not following the founding fathers’ creed of Separation of Church and State. But really, where do you draw the line? Should you be voting for something you do not believe in, just because you think it will be for the good of most?

I am not telling you to cast your vote one way or the other– I would just like you to ponder: can our “American Values” be applied to something like government, or are they just for our own personal lives, to direct the way we live?

And if our values can’t be applied to the government, how would they be applied to our capitalistic economy, fueled by consumer and investor total greed?! At what point did our Golden Rule-based American values get thrown out the window?

Stuart Muszynski says, in his Huff Post article, that “America is discontented because many of our leaders are disconnected from our values…But America’s values themselves, at the grassroots level, are alive and well.” Maybe first, before we look at the larger issues of how to ethically solve the economy, or who should be elected for President 2012, maybe we should work on setting and refining our own personal values, making them something we know is right and can be proud of.

I, like Jim Wallis, a writer for the Huffington Post and a “Christian leader for social change,” believe that my values come from the Bible, and consequently, in our predominantly Christianity-influenced society, they occasionally do not differ from the generic idea of “American Values.” I do believe that you should do unto others as you would want them to do unto you, and this applies to everywhere where your influence touches: your relationships, your career, your charity, your thoughts and your actions. Obviously, this has proven difficult in situations like at Wall Street or in politics, but I believe one must put these values you believe in as primary guiders for your actions, even in difficult situations– values are not conditional.

But I also believe that life is not possible without some kind of suffering, and just because we are Americans does not mean we are exempt from this statement. It is inevitable that in our lives, we will have happiness, and suffering, blessings and loss, sorrow and pleasure. But through all these ups and downs, if we hold fast to what (and in my case, Who) we believe in, life becomes meaningful and with a purpose. I personally do not strive for happiness, but for joy, which is given to those who carry out God’s will in their daily lives.

I want to be part of the “grassroots” of values, making change and influencing the world starting with my small, daily actions. I strongly encourage you to do the same, to really “be the change you want to see in the world.” How ironic is it when the corny stuff is true.

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