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Mr. and Mrs. America, you’re being lied to
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Mr. and Mrs. America, you’re being lied to

Think of all the lies you’ve been told and maybe even believed. Trades are for losers. Porn is normal. Fat, drunk, and stupid are valid life choices. We can do better.

We’ve been groomed. We’ve been lied to. We’ve been manipulated. And in turn, we’ve become groomers, liars, and manipulators ourselves.

As long as I’ve been alive, or actually since America’s victory in World War II, our culture has gone all in with materialism. Money, status, comfort, largesse, science, and technology have been used to placate our fears, numb our traumas, distort our intuitions, and erode the truths that have undergirded mankind for millennia.

We are living in a post-truth, post-betrayal America. Where do we go from here?

We outsourced raising children to the government, through the public schools and day care, in exchange for two-car garages, microwaves, color televisions, women’s liberation, and TV dinners. The Baby Boomers chose their careers and keeping up with the Joneses over the well-being of their kids.

I’m an ’80s kid. Generation X. I walked to school, delivered newspapers (remember those?), and played "ditch" on summer nights with friends in the neighborhood. I had three or four hours a day of unsupervised play with friends from the age of six on. I was a “latchkey kid.” It was glorious.

Gen X might be the last generation that had fights after school. We did not have authority figures suffocating us by trying to solve all our problems. We had to figure them out ourselves. Often those were solved through fisticuffs.

Today there are no fights after school. Instead, we have metal detectors in schools, cops in schools, illiterate graduates, mushy-minded climate zealots anxious about a dying planet ... and school shootings.

Can we maybe just kill the public schools?

It only took me a few years working in the business world before I realized I hated every single task of every single day. Once I “got it,” maybe 10 months into a job as a general manager at a major firm, then it became work I despised. We were the “price leader” in our industry — notice the term isn’t “quality leader” — but not a company with the greatest integrity.

We overcharged our customers until they barked; then we’d back off, wait until things settled down, then raise prices again.

I went to school at night for a decade as a soldier so I could get a “real job” when I left the service. I worked my butt off to land a position I was certain I wanted, only to learn that I hated it. I hated the job. I hated who I had become. The work had no intrinsic value.

I absorbed the profit, profit, profit, material, material, material, lie, lie, lie ethic. I worked at this company in the oil and gas industry at the same time Enron collapsed. I came to understand that Enron is the standard. They are all Enron. We are all Enron. We lied about everything.

Let me tell you about honest work that gives me pleasure: It’s when I scoop up the dog poop from my lawn knowing no one will step in it. Seriously. There is an immediate reward for honest work. I also love mowing my lawn.

In 2017, my wife and I refinanced our home. I had to replace some stairs, laminate flooring, a toilet, and a lot of other little things that I had put off. I had never used a power tool before then. (Thank you for nothing, public schools.)

The work was exhausting, but I learned something new every day. I had to figure out how to do a nose at the top step and the landing. I struggled with the problem for a few days, then — bam! I had an idea. It was hard, but I did it.

I slipped into a coma each night for about six weeks while I did all this remodeling — and loved it. I loved myself, my wife, my family. I was a better human being because I was doing something productive. Something with real, honest feedback about my performance.

Now a confession: I voted to legalize weed and gay marriage in 2012. I’d take both of those votes back if I could because I realize I fell for lies. Slippery slopes, it turns out, are often vertical.

Think of all the lies you’ve been told and maybe even believed. Trades are for losers. Don't let marriage and children interfere with your career. Sleep around, it’s “empowering.” Porn is normal. OnlyFans is for liberated women. Take the pill. Take the vaccine. Fat makes you fat. Don’t worry about carbs. Take this pill if you’re feeling down. Take that pill to have sex. Take this prescription if you’re fat. Take statins. Take these pills for the rest of your life and you'll feel “normal.” Fat, drunk, and stupid are valid life choices.

Empty sex is the point. Empty lives are the point. Depression and anxiety are the point. Titillation and distraction are the point.

The only thing that saved me was being poor enough to need the Army’s G.I. Bill. What civilians don’t understand (and often this is below the surface with most veterans) is that our greatest benefit from military service — by an order of magnitude, not even close — is the number of deep, meaningful relationships gained in the military. It sustains us. It is what keeps us alive.

Lydia Denworth makes this argument specifically in “Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond.” Read it.

And while you’re at it, read (or re-read) "Brave New World,” by Aldous Huxley. The novel describes “erotic play” for children under five. Everyone takes a drug called Soma that gets them high without a hangover. The drug is just a distraction. We have plenty of those. It could be weed, or the internet, or games, or booze — but certainly your phone.

We have been and continue to be groomed, lied to, and manipulated. We are living in a post-truth, post-betrayal America. Where do we go from here? I’m not sure. But the first step is to reject the lies and live a life of truth.

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