Occasional thoughts from a young adult reveling in the messiness of life.
In thinking about this question, I wanted to take a more personal look. Many can debate on whether the country as a whole is better off, and there are pros and cons for both arguments. So instead of delving into a macro debate, I chose to look at things that affected me on a more personal level.
So without trying to speak for everyone in the country, I can say definitively for myself that yes, I am better off today than I was four years ago.
When President Obama was sworn into office on January 20, 2009, here is what life looked like through my eyes:
My husband was unemployed, a result of a significant downsizing at his firm in late 2008. My own company had experienced a couple of rounds of layoffs already, with more on the horizon, and I hadn’t received a single increase in pay or responsibility in the nearly three years I worked there. Every time I turned on the news, one of the top stories was either how many of our brave men and women had lost their lives that day in either of the two wars the U.S. was fighting, or how we still couldn’t find Osama bin Laden. I had many friends with loved ones deployed, and I felt their pain, their worry and their fears. And finally, my LGBT friends could serve the country that they loved, but they couldn’t talk about who they loved without fear of reprisal.
But a lot has changed since then. Here are just a few, small examples of things that are better (from my perspective) than they were four years ago:
We are both happily employed. My husband has a full-time job that he loves. I am also in great job (and one that offers opportunities for growth).
Wars are (almost) over. The war in Iraq is over, the war in Afghanistan will be over soon, so the rate of deaths for our military men and women is significantly lower than it was. My heart still hurts for our military families who have loved ones deployed, but there are a lot less now than there were, and for that, I am thankful. The loved ones of my friends returned, and I rejoiced with them.
Osama is gone. Terrorism didn’t die with Osama bin Laden, but at least the man who was responsible for the attacks on 9/11 is no longer a threat to us. Though I’m torn about returning violence with violence, I felt a twinge of relief when the announcement was made.
Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” My LGBT friends can serve openly in our military. ‘Nuff said.
These past four years haven’t been easy, though. At one point, my husband was holding down four part-time jobs. I, too, got caught up in a layoff and spent a couple of months searching for a job. I witnessed a lot of hatred thrown at my LGBT friends throughout the debate over Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and they still face discrimination in other areas of their lives.
But even through all of this, the biggest way that I am better off is that the hope that I felt on the day President Obama took office is still alive and well in me.
I still believe that yes, we can make this country better. I still believe that yes, we can dig ourselves out of this hole. I still believe that yes, we can protect the dignity of our fellow American brothers and sisters.
It never was going to be easy, and it won’t be easy still. But we have, and will continue to, “Put our hands on the arc of history and bend it once more to the hope of a new day” (President-elect Obama in his election night speech).
So there it is. Today I am better off, and ever more hopeful, than I was four years ago.
How about you? Are you personally better off?