The American ‘Pursuit Of Happiness’ Is Failing

Isabella Chan, Assistant News Editor

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During Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the saying “Make America Great Again” swept the nation. The slogan, originally coined by President Ronald Reagan, helped carry Trump all the way to the Oval Office as he became president. But looking through American history, I would argue America was never great to begin with.

There continues to be a false belief that Americans have the ideal standard of living. For decades, people have come here in hopes of achieving the American dream: a stable job, a family and a decent home. Yet, in reality, these ideals have not led many American people to happiness.

According to a United Nations report, the United States is the 19th happiest country in the world. These results were gathered based on six factors that influence human well-being: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity.

Every American feels the pain of the flaws that plague our institutions, but there is a group that feels it more than most people could fathom. That disadvantaged group is black people.

When the Founding Fathers created the Declaration of Independence, they believed every American citizen had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, something the nation so proudly prides itself in offering. What many fail to realize, though, is these rights were not intended for everyone to exercise, specifically not for African-Americans, Native Americans or any person of color.

During that time, people of color were not seen as people and were therefore not given those rights. From that moment on, America was not a “great” place for everyone.

Despite gaining some rights and equality over time, people of color have been far behind in their ability to pursue happiness, or even in feeling welcome in their own country.

Black people have a long history of being mistreated in America, which has carried into today’s world. One that continues to limit them is the 13th Amendment.

Although slavery was abolished with the law, we allow individuals to be stripped of their basic rights once labeled as a criminal. Because of this, slavery has been able to live on and so has racism.

Following the creation of the amendment in 1789, the government was able to continue to treat black people like slaves through incarceration. By 2015, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People reported that though African-Americans and Hispanics take up 32 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 56 percent of incarcerated people.

While it practically assists in forcing people of color to a life of slavery, like their ancestors, the law also influences each of the factors that are part of a positive well-being in some aspect. With laws like this, it is no surprise why America has not been much of a great place for most.

Even beyond the systemic racism that persist in our country, Americans have battled other factors that prevent them from gaining happiness. The government influence in other countries differs vastly compared to the United States.

Nordic countries, like Finland, who placed first on the list, often rank in the top five for happiest countries. This is partially because of their citizens agreeing with the work their government does.

The World Happiness Report shows that Finland has positive civic engagement and high levels of trust with the government, along with healthy work-life balance and sufficient government-funded services.

Whether born natives or immigrants, Finns rank high in happiness, which is better than what most Americans can say.

Along with untrustworthy governmental powers, just take a look at who is running the country. Jeffrey Sachs, one of the WHR authors, claims Americans suffer unhappiness due to pursuing false joy, which results in addiction and depression. The addictive behavior creates a buildup of distrust and minimum communication, which inadvertently impacts three of six factors of one’s well-being negatively.

Trump and Reagan may have been able to ride their way into the presidency by saying “Make America Great Again,” but looking back on history and even at today’s current state of the union, there is not much greatness going on.