George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

A Free Amer⁠i⁠ca Is Never Abou⁠t⁠ Comfor⁠t⁠

By: Dr. J. Robert McClure / 2020

August 10, 2020

By: Dr. Bob McClure

As the parent of two daughters who are entering adulthood, my family has operated on a time-tested strategy that’s completely counter-intuitive to everything in my nature, yet is something I learned in high school biology many years ago.

A butterfly only survives by struggling to exit its cocoon.

If any aid is granted — for example if you break a cocoon to help the butterfly escape — its wings will not have developed the strength to fly.

Ultimately the butterfly will die.

The translation to parenting is this: as much as I want to do everything possible within my power to make every minute of my daughters’ lives pleasant, joyful, and comfortable — I have to allow them to experience both pain and discomfort.

I hate it.

Every fiber of my being wants to make sure that they never cry a tear in their lives.

Nevertheless, deep down I am aware of one of many fundamental truths of life.

As a parent, if I did everything for my daughters, they would not be strong enough to do anything on their own.

They have to struggle and be uncomfortable at times in order to grow and develop into successful and independent women so that they can navigate a world in which not everything is pleasant, and which always has challenges and struggles around the next corner.

I think about this as I survey the landscape of so much going on in our country, whether we are discussing the strategies for addressing a pandemic, the challenges of policing and our justice systems, or the economic policies and the proper role of government, markets, and communities.

We have — as a society for some time now — become addicted to the false concept that perpetual comfort and safety are vastly superior to risk, pain or disappointment.

It appears we want to enjoy all the blessings and bypass all the discomfort that is inevitable in life.

My generation used to joke about raising children who didn’t have to experience the disappointment of losing — everyone got a participation trophy because everyone should feel like a winner. That approach, in part, has led us right to where we are today.

If anything makes us uncomfortable it should be avoided, minimized, or completely eradicated. Someone says something that insults or challenges your worldview? Well that’s a microaggression so let’s look up everything they’ve ever said since they were in grade school and broadcast it so as to enrage the cancel culture mob (because that person should no longer be permitted to vocalize their viewpoints).

Support law enforcement?

You’re expressing your privilege because America is inherently a racist country and therefore so are you, and your livelihood should be impacted. Acknowledge that there exist disparities in the interaction with the justice system? Well, you’re giving into the “woke” mob and you should expect a protest on your front door to properly shame you into submission.

This mindset is particularly troubling because of what it invites.

It invites the false savior, typically in the form of an authoritarian and overreaching government that promises panacea after panacea while “cancelling” any reasonable discourse or alternative debate.

Like an appetite for sugar without an iota of comprehension of the consequences of diabetes — we want to feel the comfort, but not the struggle.

While I am not technically a baby boomer (so please spare me the “OK, boomer” comments), my parents are of  “The Greatest Generation,” and I think of what they and their parents endured.

They experienced the Great Depression, two World Wars, the rebuilding of entire continents, the challenges of cultural change, and so many other struggles that not only shaped their character, but also forged an ethic that bred opportunity and success.

From my vantage point, we seem to have lost that.

Getting that national character back will require something we are exceptionally averse — not only a willingness to be uncomfortable, but a desire to embrace it and celebrate it as a necessary step in the continued development of our national character.

Perhaps this is the silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only time will tell.

In one my favorite movie quotes of all time from “The American President,” President Andrew Shepherd uttered some wisdom when he said “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.'”

It’s my sincere belief that until we understand, accept, and even embrace the idea that we need to be uncomfortable and struggle to realize our best days, we will continue this cycle of vitriol tearing at the fabric of what our Founders envisioned 244 years ago.

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