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  • Children of Eden written by Joey Graceffa
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America needs a thicker skin

Normally when you think of pop culture, you think MTV, Hollywood, retailers and magazines. I find that image both entertaining and useless. I believe our culture is tied up in what we advertise as right and necessary. And what is currently advertised is a complete abdication of our own greatness.

I take great pride in my abilities, strengths and the weaknesses that I have fought to overcome. While I am in no way perfect, I do believe my life is my own and I am singularly responsible for facing obstacles. Apparently I am unique. Consider these TV advertisements:

“The chances of a child being diagnosed with autism [are] one in 150.”

“If you’ve been injured ” you may be entitled to benefits.”

“Depression hurts, but you don’t have to.”

“Our clients aren’t freeloaders, not by a long shot.”

“Get out of debt ” you deserve a second chance.”

There seem to be two basic premises here that I wish to challenge. The first is that we should consider handicaps and challenges the norm, and the second is that we possess some entitlement simply for being alive.

I believe we are starting to treat ourselves and our bodies like our cars. When you take the car into the shop, they might run a general inspection, complete with a checklist, to make sure nothing is wrong, operating on the assumption that it is better to be paranoid than unsafe (or in their case, liable).

What does it say about a culture that encourages us to take the same tack with our own well-being? Yes, it is good to know when you are sick and need help. But when we continually expand the definition of downtrodden to a larger and lemographic – hence my autism and depression examples, we also cheapen the victories won by the truly handicapped.

I am not questioning the difficulty of a given challenge, nor do I doubt the courage necessary to overcome autism, depression, poverty, injury and all the rest of that ridiculously long list. But we are not approaching it in that manner.

We are not saying, “You can persevere,” we’re saying, “You are a victim” and closing the book.

More to the point, when did we decide that I, you or anyone deserves something just for being alive? I get the whole life-liberty-and-pursuit-of-happiness thing. But what about universal health care, guaranteed accessibility for handicapped people and the apparent right to prosperity that debt management groups advertise?

These are great ideas on paper, especially the handicap accessibility (as that is one thing you really cannot avoid or overcome, in the most literal sense). The problem is that they require money, which is all well and good in the cases of charities such as the Red Cross, but not so much when it is taken by force.

The old war cry against taxes for social programs is that they steal from Peter to give to Paul. In Hillary’s case, it’s more like stealing from Peter and Paul to potentially, someday, repay Peter and Paul – but probably not.

Did you ever wonder why conservatives, on average, give more to charity than liberals? It’s because liberals want to abdicate responsibility by saying, “Look, it came out of my paycheck, I did my part.” Conservatives know that this kind of pandering and its inherent assumption of natural right to assistance is at best insulting and thereby take steps via a moral path (read: voluntarily give of themselves and their wealth) to redress those same grievances.

Tragically, the effects of victimization are becoming continually more apparent. In politics we want a president who is “just like us.”

I don’t. I want a president better, brighter and maybe a little better-looking than myself. I want an elitist – preferably one who has earned that distinction – in the White House.

Some examples are even more laughable: In the last few weeks Barack Obama has been pressured to release a senior international policy adviser because she called Hillary Clinton a mean name, and a John McCain supporter is baffled and a bit miffed at being hounded for a nasty statement about Obama.

All I can say is, really? Our potential commander-in-chief, and the nation that will vote for him or her, are threatened by name calling?

So here’s my plea: Toughen up, America. Take responsibility for your actions and trials, pride in your achievements, glory in overcoming your obstacles, and responsibility for genuine victims of hardships.

More to the point, do not – in the name of all that our country stands for – abdicate that responsibility to government, family or the general public. You are not a car to be placed in the hands of the great government mechanics.

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