On Unhappiness

This weekend, someone backing the other dude put out a little gleeful dig post, which included this line about me: “he seems like such an unhappy person.” Nope. Not at all. In fact, I’m running because I have hope for a better future, which is a stance based on optimism. But let’s catalog the things that do make me unhappy.

Portrait of unhappiness?

I am unhappy that one in four Meadville residents live in poverty.

I am unhappy that Crawford County ranks 56th out of 67 Pennsylvania counties in per capita income.

I am unhappy that so many of our neighbors live one paycheck away from personal financial disaster. And that so many have to work two jobs, or sixty hours a week, or rely on overtime to make ends meet.

I am unhappy that so many Pennsylvanians face the specter of medical bankruptcy, because healthcare costs so much, and insurance is not universal, and that we lack the political will to do something about it.

I am unhappy that BIPOC residents of Crawford and Erie Counties face inequity, and that too many other residents pretend racism is not a problem, and that too many refuse to listen to those who experience racism, that a Black Lives Matter sign in a yard inspires vandalism and shot out windows, and that many shrug and ignore what that tolerance of intolerance tells us about ourselves.

I am unhappy that LGBTQ members of our community face prejudice and intimidation, that they lack the protections of an anti-discrimination ordinance that would guarantee their civil rights, and that too many gleefully hope to overturn their right to be married, to be whole, to be human.

I am unhappy that state legislators have voted to weaken clean water protections, and allow unreported spills of crude oil and brine water, and have thrown billions of dollars of public money into propping up the very industry that keeps us tethered to boom-bust economic cycles and threatens the quality of our water, our woods, and our air.

I am unhappy that lots of folks will shout about the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution, which is not under threat, but completely ignore Article I, Section 27 of the PA Constitution, which guarantees environmental protection, and is consistently violated and ignored.

I am unhappy that “pro life” has become an empty term that signals only a desire to strip women of their right to make choices about their health and their bodies and ignores the threat to life presented by generational poverty, by lack of access to healthcare, by environmental destruction, by systemic racism, by domestic violence, by hate speech that provokes violence.

I am unhappy that teachers are treated as lazy grifters on the public dole when, in fact, they are highly trained professionals who work incredibly hard, log long hours, and care deeply about our kids and their futures.

I am unhappy that wanting better for our region can be somehow seen as a bad thing, or as a threat to what we hold dear in our community.

I am unhappy that anyone’s sense of joy and happiness in this life is so weak and fragile that it cannot see honest critique, and the desire for improvement, and the commitment to integrity, as optimism and hope and, instead, is so threatened by the recognition of persistent problems in our representation and politics that the hope for a better future is somehow seen as a state of perpetual personal unhappiness.

Most of all, I am unhappy that some people define their own happiness in terms that require a social structure that guarantees other people will remain unhappy. That’s a weak and cruel “happiness,” when satisfaction is derived from the suffering of others.

I believe in the pursuit of happiness as a perpetual goal, and that a fair and honest assessment of what isn’t working is a crucial way to chart a course for a future that allows more happiness for more people. I am optimistic, and hopeful, that we can build a future where happiness is not regularly denied to so many.

On November 3, vote happy.

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