You’re born with one desire – love. And you’ve got nothing to give to the world. Not yet, anyway. As a child you’re just ‘the future.’ What that means in America is that ‘one day you’ll provide value to the rest of us.’ Because you’ll become a resource.

You start to work as soon as you’re able because this is the land of opportunity and a strong work ethic is the most important trait you can have. Opportunity means working hard and getting stuff in return. Well that stuff is part of your value to others. You see, as long as you’re earning wages, you can afford to keep other people in business. That’s why companies advertise on TV – so that you’ll want their products. From Tide selling laundry detergent for whiter shirts, to Walt Disney (which is genius because they aim for your two most valuable resources – time and money) enticing you to take a cruise with Mickey – everyone is trying to suck the resources out of you. Because that’s your value to them. But the minute you run out of money, or lose your ability to earn money, you’re no longer a resource. You lose value. You’re dust.

Oh, you still might have love, but here’s the thing – love doesn’t pay for shit. Love is just something that is a nice byproduct of life. If you’re lucky enough to have love, great. You might be happy when you’re done with work at the end of each day. However, love is no longer requisite for life in America. Love does not equal happiness. The only thing that matters today is that you earn money. And to earn it means sacrificing as much of your love as possible. You might live in a big house away from the city because you love it, but if you want to earn the money to afford it – you’re going to have to commute an hour each way to a job that can pay you enough. Two hours out of twenty four stolen from love. It’s a never-ending machine. No way to break out. We see our peers and we want what they have. So we scheme to work harder to have nicer shoes and cleaner shirts and better vacations away from this bullshit.

I know a lot of wealthy people who are just as much a part of this machine as the rest of us. They sell their time just like everyone else. They have to spend the money they get from selling their time on toilet paper just like I do. Their wives may wear diamonds the size of Kansas, but these people are no happier than me. Because I have learned to recognize that love is the fire that keeps me going day-to-day. Too many of us work for money in hopes that if we gather enough of it, this will make us happier. And so our time on earth ticks away with each New Year we ring in as we work for money, only. Money is the most important thing. Money gives us things that will help make our lives better and more convenient. And with better stuff, and a more convenient life, love is sure to fill the gaps that remain. Except, it never does. What fills those gaps is more stuff. More want. More work. More sacrifice. The beauty of being flanked by two oceans with a dysfunctional nation to our south is that we don’t have a reference point to reality. Our reality lives on television in the form of the hottest freakshow sweeping the country – as advertisers latch on and shove their idea of what is good down our throats. And we happily swallow it. We have no choice.

If you’re close to me, you know that for the last couple of years I’ve been obsessed with the idea of moving to another country for a simpler life. A place where love and goodwill can take precedence in my life without competition from the ‘real’ world. A place where we can give our children a reference point bigger than the limited view they’ll see growing up in America. When I tell people about this, I almost always hear the same questions: How will you earn money? What happens if you get sick? How will your kids get into college? How will you retire? How will you get your shirts white if there’s no Walmart nearby? You know you can’t run away from problems don’t you? Yes. I do. I realize there’s no ‘place’ that is perfect. But I also feel like the quality of my life here is not getting better as I get older. And to this there are people who say: If you don’t like America, get the hell out. I get it – we think this is the best country on earth. Hell, it has to be since we have no other reference point. We don’t see that our healthcare system is in disarray, or that our infrastructure is crumbling. We spend more money on defense than any other nation on earth and are 10-1 in wars which means we’re free to pursue the kinds of lives we think are best without worrying about anyone coming over and fucking with us. And if they do, they’ll get a face full of AK47 from Joe the Plumber. And you know what? These other countries can get the hell out too. To hell with our crumbling infrastructure – we’re America. We’re number one.

Look, I love America. I’m proud that I served my country in the armed forces and wore my uniform in other countries. And I continue to believe that at its core, the idea of America is still based on love, tolerance, and respect for one another. But the older I get, the more isolated I see our nation become – and there’s nothing I can do about it. Sure, I can vote, but that’s just to elect different people to fight for what I think is a better way. Even though they almost never do. Take one look at how our country is run and it’s screamingly obvious that Americans love confrontation. Somehow this lust for confrontation has become a lust for blood. For violence. It’s in our video games. In our movies. On our televisions. In our sports. It’s in our fight for that prime parking spot at the mall. Sure, when there’s a natural disaster or similar tragedy that affects us we throw a concert to raise money for victims. Because money is our most valuable asset. There’s really nothing else we can give. When our money is gone, we lose our value.

I want off of this ride, man. That’s what I’m working for. I’m tired of competing with the rest of you. I just want a simpler life. What can I say, I’m a dreamer.

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Jim Mitchem

America the Beautiful
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Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.