2023, an unhappy year

by A. Altieri D’Angelo

As the end of the year approaches, we must look back and try to understand what happened and determine how we feel about what occurred. Assessing 2023’s impact on the U.S. has been difficult, at least for me. To begin with, many, but not all Americans, were generally unhappy before 2023 started.

The conflicting elements affecting society in 2023 have had one overriding effect on such unhappy people: unhappiness increased, and that caused doubt and despair about the future of the U.S. However, there is evidence that life in the U.S. is improving, but the good news is being ignored. People are finding reasons to dispute the information. Many may have not fully recovered from the emotional impact of the pandemic, or they find solace in focusing on bad news. Whatever the reason, the nation is in a pessimistic mood.

Americans see the U.S. being challenged by Russia, China, Iran, and a diverse group of militants in various places in the world. President Biden has led the effort to contain Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and rallied countries to work together to restrain China’s effort to impose its authoritarian will and demands on neighboring countries. The U.S. support of Israel is another example of the fight against the forces of Hamas and Iran.

Biden’s policies have restored the U.S. as the leader of the free world. The U.S. and its allies are winning the fight for freedom, although it will be decades before victory can be achieved. However, many Americans believe the U.S. should refrain from engaging in such matters or that Biden needs to manage the issues better. They refuse to see that what happens overseas will impact the U.S. over time and seem willing to forget the strategic lesson of WWll-that you must stop aggression immediately. Why would Americans think Biden is failing when it is obvious he is not? It is as if people want to avoid dealing with complex issues. Most are tired and worn out; they appear to have no faith in the future.

Similarly, Americans believe that crime is increasing across the U.S. Crime, which spiked during the pandemic, has dropped. Official FBI statistics show a continuing drop in crime nationwide. The FBI reported, “crime statistics estimates for 2022 show that national violent crime decreased an estimated 1.7% in 2022 compared to 2021 estimates, and the homicide rate fell significantly last year, by slightly more than 6% compared with 2021.”

U.S. crime is declining to all-time low levels. But the public’s perception is that it is “soaring” Sadly, the public only hears and sees what it wants to hear and see; in this case, they do not acknowledge the good news about crime.

According to U.S. polling, most people think 2023 was a bad year for the country’s economy, but polling also found that people believed they fared better personally. It is difficult to understand why Americans consider the U.S. economy to be in bad shape when unemployment is at its lowest level in 50 years. The government is spending billions on new investments for infrastructure, climate change, onshoring of the supply chain, and basic research. Interest rates have stopped rising and could begin to drop in 2024. Inflation, considered the most significant contributor to unhappiness in the U.S., has declined for months. The inflation rate in the last six months was below 3%. But only some people are acknowledging the change.

Despite the dark view of the economy, consumer spending is at an all-time high; credit card debt is hitting record levels. With inflation being as high as it was, one would expect an increase in the value of consumer spending, but there is more to it. People are incurring debt for luxury travel and other non-essential items. This type of behavior is revenge buying. Research has shown that emotions such as depression, anger, fear, and anxiety can lead to revenge buying. The more unhappy you are, the more likely you will engage in revenge buying.

People are also being overwhelmed by the 24-hour news cycle. Repetitive bad news reporting is sucking the air out of the room. There is no end to the unwelcome news. (I am not suggesting the information be censored. But people must build a buffer to balance news reporting and the good things in their lives.)  A case in point is the constant drumbeat about the dysfunction in the U.S. House of Representatives (the House). We face a government shutdown, a border crisis, and a need to fund Israel and Ukraine, but nothing is being done. The House is only focused on impeaching Joe Biden. One would think the U.S. is falling apart, but it isn’t, and people need to believe that.

2023 could be considered a year of recovery if people stopped using dark lenses to view life.

2024 will be a pivotal point in U.S. history. Its people will decide the fate of democracy. The decision will affect the U.S. and the rest of the world. We must leave “2023-the Unhappy Year” behind and make the right decisions.

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