“Are you lonesome, tonight?” Elvis Presley famously crooned the question in 1960 upon returning home from a two-year stint in the Army, a forced break in the entertainer’s trailblazing career that would’ve derailed a weaker and less talented cultural figure.
Though it’s not likely that many contemporary Americans refer to a song centered on isolation as regularly as they might have not too long ago – due to modern communications and the advent of social media, loneliness isn’t as epidemic as it once was – there’s a different type of question being bandied about these days, namely, “Are you suffering, today?”
“Suffering” can take different forms, of course, but if a recent Gallup survey is any indicator, Americans are agonizing at levels not seen, well, ever. How could this be? In a story titled, “
Record share of Americans are ‘suffering,’ Gallup says”, Tom Howell, Jr. reported at The Washington Times:
“The share of Americans who rate their lives so poorly they are considered to be ‘suffering’ is climbing, according to a Gallup survey that says economic stress from inflation and worry over moral values is fueling the problem. The pollsters said the share of people considered to be suffering reached 5.6% in July, the highest mark since Gallup began measuring the concept in 2008 with its Life Evaluation Index.
“The survey asks people to rate their lives on a 0 to 10 scale so they can be classified as ‘thriving,’ ‘struggling’ or ‘suffering.’ Those who grade their current and future lives as 4 or below are considered to be suffering, while those who give their current lives at least a 7 and future lives an 8 or higher are thriving.
“The share of people estimated to be thriving is steadily decreasing from a record high of 59.2% in June 2021 to 51.2% and suffering rates are increasing among Democrats, Republicans and independents, Gallup said. The suffering rate of 5.6% translates to 14 million U.S. adults, the pollsters said.”
Are these results just a ho-hum regular run-of-the-mill standard-of-living whining characteristic of a complacent and spoiled general population, or do people have good reason to be “suffering” in 2022? Think about how dramatically the “thriving” number dropped in just one year’s time. Nearly 60 percent were “thriving” less than half a year into Joe Biden’s presidency, and that figure fell eight points in one year.
If Elvis were still around, he’d release an updated version of his “lonesome” number-one hit, instead calling it, “Are you suffering today under Joe Biden”?
Personally, I would argue the “suffering” figure is on the low side from where it should be. I was reminded the other day of just how conditioned we are, as Americans, to disguise or cloak how we’re doing individually in order to maintain an appearance of normalcy for people we encounter. Someone (I believe it was the plumber who showed up on a routine call) asked me the standard “How are you today?” greeting and I instinctively replied “I’m doing well”, which is the perfunctory answer everyone tosses out without even thinking about it.
I wasn’t well, though. I had just spent the previous day in bed, dreadfully sidetracked with COVID-19. Someone in my household tested positive for the bug the previous week, and though I hadn’t actually tested for it myself, I was experiencing identical symptoms – and putting two and two together, concluded that I also had the affliction. The worst part about it was writhing through a 24-hour period with one of the worst migraine-like headaches I’d ever had, the pain of which could only partially be deadened with Tylenol, darkness and a deluge of fluids.
I realized that, once I showed symptoms, that I was directed by our benevolent government betters to seek medical attention right away. But I decided to give it a day or so to “calm down” instead, and I felt some better the next day, the fever and headache having subsided to the point where I could still do my daily work routine without severe interruption. I’ve been a little better everyday since, and the household member who’d tested positive had received medical advice to stay home, isolate, and monitor the symptoms.
So that’s what I did, like I have for many, many other illnesses throughout yearly living.
I’m not knocking those who prognosticated worldwide doom because of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP or Wuhan, if you prefer) virus, but I couldn’t help but wonder why COVID was considered that much worse than the seasonal flu, which I’ve also trudged through in the past, or any number of airborne maladies we’re exposed to through perpetual contact with other human beings.
‘We voluntarily tanked our economy, set our schoolchildren back two years and wasted trillions of dollars to battle this?’ I wondered to myself. I’m fortunate enough where I don’t have to commute and/or work next to coworkers who’d much prefer to isolate themselves away from me when such conditions arise, but I also think America as a country could’ve handled this pandemic a heck of a lot better than we did.
No doubt, the “suffering” figure that was reflected in the Gallup survey includes some number of good folks who were affected by COVID, either through actual sickness or more likely through an economic impact of either having to stay home to tend the restless youth of the household or because their employer closed the office or store and forced them to stay away for months at a time.
A lot has been written already about it, but how is the two-year period where COVID dominated daily headlines going to influence the next quarter of a century? Just the opportunity costs alone from the unprecedented hysteria and lockdowns are enormous and incalculable. How many relationships weren’t made because of “social distancing”? How many marriages ended because of the additional financial stress placed on families? How much social benefits were lost?
That’s real suffering, not something to be ignored.
In our case, we had just moved to a new neighborhood when COVID hit and didn’t get much of a chance to meet our neighbors or folks with similar new circumstances that entire time. We are fortunate to have selected a community with a “newcomers” type gathering organization, but it suspended its meetings due to COVID. The period for being a “newcomer” has been extended, but after living in the same place for three years now you don’t feel much like a stranger to the area any longer.
If people are miserable today, there likely are numerous contributing factors. Family budgets are strained to the maximum these days with many, many folks needing to choose between buying gasoline to get to and from work and price-inflated food that used to be at least semi-affordable. Thanks to the generous unemployment benefits offered by the various governments during the COVID period, most who want to work were able to return to the job or find a position doing something similar to what they were doing after the restrictions were lifted.
The “healthy” job market reveals that work is plentiful and available for those so inclined to toil for an honest wage. But after the initial period where employers were offering bonuses and generous incentives to entice people to come back to work, those days are gone. Workers are probably earning a little more than they were before anyone had ever heard of Wuhan and Dr. Anthony Fauci, but with much of the economy being weighed down by inflation, folks are still “suffering.”
The airline industry, for example, has been rocked by the aftereffects of COVID and inflation. We’re still hearing of massive flight cancellations due to shortages of air crews, a deficit that won’t be made up for anytime soon – or at least as long as vaccine mandates are still in place. I took the two initial jabs when they were first offered last year, but wasn’t “boosted” or monitored.
Simply put, my recent “suffering” wouldn’t have been alleviated by the booster shots. There are lots of examples of public figures getting COVID (even twice in two weeks, as senile Joe demonstrated) after adhering to the government mandates. My whole COVID episode has provided yet another reason to doubt the truthfulness of our betters’ word regarding health. Is there anything the government does right these days?
The Gallup survey additionally pointed to declines in morals as a rationale for why Americans said they are “suffering”. The good old days of barely giving a second thought to the possibility of being a crime victim are over, too. No doubt elderly residents of crime infested inner cities are suffering quite a lot, including from loneliness. “Morals” and “values” aren’t mentioned much by the establishment media anymore.
Wouldn’t it be considered immoral for the government not to enforce the southern border? News reports indicate billions of dollars of lethal drugs are being smuggled across the line – and that’s just the criminals who get caught. How much slips through the law enforcement net? The nation’s peace officers have taken a giant reputational hit because of the policies sent down from the top of the current administration.
No wonder Americans are less inclined to describe themselves as “thriving” as opposed to “suffering”. The over-the-top, privacy stifling FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago is yet another reason to question the motives and transparency of our government. When these incidents are placed in the proper context, we’ve all “suffered”. Here’s thinking the percentage should be much, much higher.
Though we probably won’t be hearing any politicians this campaign season asking “Are you suffering, tonight?”, there’s quite a lot of pain out there among the voters. Americans see a lot going wrong all around them and feel powerless to stop the downward slide. Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats caused much of the suffering – will they pay for it at the ballot box in November?
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