The dangers of our passionless American life

People have an inherent drive for meaning. That’s why George W. Bush was so criticized for not summoning Americans to make big sacrifices after 9/11 — people wanted to do something, and they wanted it to matter. But we live in a me-me-me world where politicians don’t want to ask us to make sacrifices. Our churches don’t want to ask us to make sacrifices. Even our parents don’t want to ask us to make major sacrifices. Doing so seems antithetical to the “do what makes you feel good” culture that seems evermore pervasive in the West. But for many, that life ends up feeling meaningless…

Going back to ancient times, young men have craved honor and glory. But when there’s no communal higher calling, and no Wild West frontier for those afflicted with wanderlust to conquer, they’re left empty. Playing video games isn’t enough.

It’s not that my fellow conservative commentators aren’t largely correct about why so many angry young men are fleeing the staid comforts of the West for the violent excitement of the Middle East. It’s only to say this: The American Dream needn’t be inherently boring. Ours is a society build on a sense of destiny, sacrifice, and adventure. If we’ve gotten away from that, well, maybe we as a people need to figure out how to get excited again, to recapture the exploratory adventurers’ spirit and national spirit that so animated Americans in generations past.

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