Many of you are dissatisfied with the results of last year’s Presidential election. As a political atheist and card-carrying “unaffiliated” I don’t have a dog in the fight. Most of you have sworn allegiance to a particular party, so allow me to offer you a bit of encouragement. Regardless of who holds the office of the President, the power to “make America great” resides where it always has: with The People. Here are some outstanding ways we can actually make America great.
Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but an elected official – any elected official – is probably going to have very little impact on America’s greatness. This is true regardless of who he or she is, the office elected to, or the number of terms served. Passing more laws, signing more executive orders, spending more money, talking more shit… none of those things actually does much to impact the substance of the country. What is needed is a strong People, not a strongman in office. The President can’t unilaterally “make America great.” Without the effort of the individual, the Citizen, and the collective People, greatness is only a pipe dream.
Take pride in being an asset, not just a consumer.
I’m not saying America is not great. I believe it is. I spent a good portion of my adult life serving in the shadow of her flag. But I know, like all things great or not, we have some room for improvement. In some areas we have a lot of room. Here are a few ways you can help “make America great,” regardless of who is in office.
You won’t hear politicians tell you this stuff. That’s because it might hurt your feelings. If politicians hurt your feelings, you might get mad at them. If you get mad at them, you might not vote. Instead, politicians avoid uncomfortable truths. They also won’t tell you this stuff because if you begin to realize what actually made America great – Citizens plowing the earth, working in factories, serving in the military, doing scientific research – you might realize you aren’t quite so dependent on politicians. Instead of telling you the truth they tell you you’re doing everything right. Politicians tell you that all your problems are someone else’s fault.
5 Steps to (Actually) Make American Great
I hear a lot of talk about Rights lately, but not much about the Responsibilities of being a Citizen. Accept your responsibilities. YOU are the fate and future of this country, not some Ivy League millionaire in Washington, D.C. who has never once lifted the hood of his own car or cleaned his own toilet. I also see a lot of finger-pointing about this party or that party. Let’s get our own house in order before we start pointing our tar-stained, overweight fingers at “the libtards” or the “deplorables.”
There has in recent years been excessive emphasis on a citizen’s rights and inadequate stress put upon his duties and responsibilities.
Accepting our responsibilities as Citizens is what will ACTUALLY make American great. Here is a list of five completely apolitical, tangible things we can all do to actually make America great, and keep it that way.
1. Accept Personal Responsibility for Your Health
I think a great place to begin is by accepting personal responsibility for our health. In my job I see Americans every day who take no responsibility for their health at all. They smoke, don’t exercise, subsist almost entirely on heavily processed, preservative-, salt-, and sugar-laden food, and get very little sleep. When something goes wrong they visit a doctor expecting years of neglect to be mitigated with a prescription or perhaps a procedure.
That’s a lazy way to look at your health and an abdication of personal responsibility. It also creates some much bigger problems. Health is one big, intertwined ball of yarn. It’s hard to know where to start talking about it because nearly everything impacts everything else. Obesity, for instance is both a cause and a symptom of poor health. Obesity is closely correlated with various cancers, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, digestive problems, sleep apnea, sexual dysfunction, and and plenty more. It’s also intertwined with many of these conditions: if you’re obese you’ll have trouble getting enough sleep, and if you’re not getting enough sleep you’re more likely to become obese. And on and on and on.
Not only does this cause problems for the individual, it also causes systemic problems. Healthcare costs are outrageous in this country – way, way beyond any other country’s healthcare costs. Yet the quality of our healthcare is terrible relative to most other developed nations. One in ten Americans is diabetic, and one in three is prediabetic. That means a tenth of our nation is dependent on long-term, man-made drugs like insulin, and a third are headed that way! Is that the “greatest” possible model?
So here are some concrete steps we can all take to do our part to make American great.
Stop Using Tobacco
Smoking kills more people than HIV, illegal drugs, alcohol, vehicle accidents, and guns, combined. It causes cancer, emphysema, respiratory diseases, increases your risk of stroke. Smoking does literally nothing good for you while incurring a tremendous financial cost and providing a mild form of pleasure. About 1 in 7 adults in America smokes. We’d be a lot greater – as measured by a healthier, stronger population and a less strained and expensive healthcare system – if that number went down.
One of the hallmarks of a great nation is a great military. Our military is great like no other military in history, but for how long? With nearly one third of military-aged Americans obese, our military has trouble meeting recruiting goals. Not only that, obesity costs us billions of dollars per year in healthcare costs. Obesity increases the risks for (and exacerbates) any number of health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, many types of cancer, lower quality of life, sexual dysfunction, and mental illness. Want to improve your health drastically, reduce strain and cost on our healthcare system, and strengthen the nation in one move? Lose some weight.
Not only will exercise help you lose weight, it will also do a number of other things for you. It will improve your mental health. In fact, exercise is a front-line intervention for depression in most first-world nations. As almost the polar opposite of smoking and (at least a big part of) the cure for obesity. Exercise will lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers. It will improve your sleep, sexual function, mobility, and quality of life. Exercise will also make you stronger, physically and mentally.
If a disaster hits your community you should be physically prepared to save yourself. You should be physically resilient enough to endure some hardship. If more people in our nation were physically fit we would probably be better prepared for adverse events. And speaking of being prepared…
2. Be At Least a Little Prepared
It happens time and time and time again: disaster hits, people are completely unprepared, the government comes to the rescue, we shake our heads and wonder why it took so long to save them. It doesn’t matter where it happens: Texas or New York, Tennessee or Illinois, Virginia or California. Again there’s a lot of shit-talk about how “a country boy can survive” but regardless of where it happens you’d better believe the vast majority of people are completely, totally, utterly unprepared.
This causes several problems. First, if you are the one in trouble it may very well cost your life. You place strain on the rest of the system because now others have to come rescue you. You now lose the independence you are so vocal about because now you’re reliant on the government to take care of you. Sometimes no amount of preparation will save you. A flood or wildfire or tornado that takes your home is hard to prepare for. The vast majority of the time, though, a little preparedness will go a long way.
Be ready to take care of yourself and your family. What is greater – a country completely dependent on government assistance every time it snows, or a country where every household can hunker down for two to four weeks with no notice and without much difficulty? You know the answer. Are you living up to it?
I’ve written a couple long-form articles on how to begin being prepared, including:
- Basic Preparedness: A Down and Dirty Primer. This article covers how to cover the bases of water, food, environment (shelter, heating, cooling, lighting), health and first aid, hygiene, safety, security, and preparing for your pets.
- Food Preparedness on $20 a Paycheck. Preparedness doesn’t have to be expensive. This article shows you how I accumulated 6 days of food for a family of five in four easy installments of $20. In a country of excess like ours there is no excuse not to be prepared.
We have a “service deficit” in America. How many of you have made the time to serve in some capacity – be it your country, your town, or your community? Have you have worn the uniform of our military? How many of you have accepted the duties of a cop or firefighter? When did you last take the time to do something selflessly for your community? Statistically, if you’re reading these pages it’s probably more likely a “yes” than the population at large. Still, it’s probably the minority of my audience.
Do something that benefits your fellow man, your community, and your country without an immediate expectation of compensation. Serve!
To make America great, I ask you to serve in some capacity. Get out and gain an appreciation for what “service” really is. Go out and do something for your community because I promise you, your community needs your help. What do I mean by that? I mean do something, anything, one damn thing, that doesn’t directly benefit you. Do something that benefits your fellow man, your community, and your country without an immediate expectation of compensation. Serve.
You don’t have to give up your career and join the Army to serve. There are plenty of ways to do so. You can drive for Meals on Wheels. Help build a house with Habitat for Humanity. The American Cancer Society needs volunteers to take people too and from cancer treatments. Join your local volunteer rescue squad or fire department. There are nearly limitless volunteer opportunities. Google “volunteer opportunities near me.” If you want to keep it completely off the books, grab a trash bag and a pair of gloves and pick up litter and dog crap off your own street. Don’t do it for the praise or the money (there won’t be much of either). Do it because it needs to be done and you are a contributing member of your community.
4. Become More Financially Secure
We are a nation of debtors. The standard narrative is to borrow money for college, borrow more money for a car, borrow money for a house, borrow more money for a graduate degree…stay in debt from late-teens to late-60s. Unfortunately this makes us a nation of people that have no freedom to miss a single paycheck. To put it bluntly, you have no business fantasizing about “the boog” if you can’t comfortably miss a week of work. You will miss paychecks in your future. Whether from illness, injury, layoff, downsizing, pandemic closures, government shutdowns…dozens of things could cause you to lose work and income. Prepare now.
Short story: save more money. Build up some savings to fall back on. Have money in the bank to deal with loss of income, unexpected things like car repairs, and emergencies. Next, aggressively pay off debt. Debt is a a taskmaster – you have to work to meet that minimum payment each month. Get rid of you debt – the money owed on things you’ve already bought – and you’ve taken a massive step toward being more secure. Next, lower your monthly payments. The less money you need to live each month, the more financially secure you are. Getting rid of debt is a great way to do lower monthly payments. Others are get a cheaper car, and move to a cheaper house. Finally, stop buying stuff you don’t need to impress people you don’t care about. If you need help, check out this article.
I’ve always tried to be honest with you in these pages. Today will be no different. Financial security is the area in which I have the most room for improvement. Going to school and experiencing a huge reduction in wages hurt us a bit financially. It’s time for me to start digging out of that hole.
5. Improve Yourself
Improve yourself in some way. Make yourself smarter. Become more valuable to your community and your country. Take pride in being an asset, not just a consumer. Put down your phone, close the laptop, turn off the television off and improve yourself. In addition to the things listed above, here are just a couple ways you can improve yourself.
Read a Book
There’s a lot to be gained from reading. Reading a print book before bed instead of looking at a screen improves your sleep, and helps you fall asleep faster, which in turn improves your health. It can help improve your concentration, something we could all use more of. Reading helps improve critical thinking and reasoning, as well as memory. Reading can also relieve stress in a way that television and social media tend to exacerbate.
Of course, there are also things to be learned from books. Most of you have a lot of really strong opinions about the opioid epidemic and drug war, as I recently learned upon posting my Narcan rant. Yet how many of you have read even a single book about it? Reading a book makes your opinion more informed, more nuanced, and frankly, more valuable.
If you can’t find the time to read a book, I have some recommendations that may help in this article. With the combination of audiobooks, ebooks, and paper books, almost anyone should be able to finish a book once in a while.
Learn First Aid and CPR
I have encouraged you to become EMTs. Frankly, it baffles me how many of you spend thousands of dollars on guns but have no clue what to do if your child chokes (airway compromise the leading cause of cardiac arrest in pediatrics). I understand that EMT is a pretty high bar, requiring several weeks of committed effort, and it may be costly. Still, anyone can find a day to attend a Red Cross First Aid and CPR class. If you really look you can probably also find a free, community Stop the Bleed class. If you have a weekend you can attend a Wilderness First Aid class, as my girlfriend and one of her friends is doing in November.
Learn a Skill
Learn a language. Take a carpentry class. Find someone to teach you to hunt or fish. Go to a weekend sewing class. Learn a physical, tangible skill. The point is, make yourself better and more well-rounded tomorrow than you were today. Smarter, more competent, capable Citizens are crucial if we want to actually make America great and not just talk a good game.
I’m sure this post comes across as ranty. I’m OK with that and I stand by it: a great Citizenry is the only way to actually make America great. We can’t legislate our way to greatness. I realize that everyone can’t do all of these things, for various reasons. But many of us can, and all of us should be able to do at least a couple of ’em.
Stop worrying so much about others’ thought-crimes – their political beliefs and opinions – and start worrying a little about your own real-world actions.
Don’t wait for someone else to make your country great by passing laws and giving speeches. Stop worrying so much about others’ thought-crimes – their political beliefs and opinions – and start worrying a little about your own real-world actions. Put your phone down, your sleeves up, and get to work. Let’s actually make America great!