“Are you lonesome, tonight?”, Elvis Presley crooned the question to a nationwide audience in 1960. The song itself was written by Roy Turk and Lou Handman in 1926 and several semi-successful versions were recorded prior to Elvis’s off-the-charts rendition upon concluding his
brief military service in the late 1950’s.
Where Elvis is involved, one doesn’t need to wonder long why the concept of loneliness would’ve stirred such strong emotions in “ordinary” people back then. Most people recall Elvis experienced his own kind of intense loneliness towards the end of his life, spurred on by the deterioration of his marriage and his inability to get out from under the crushing mis-management of swindler Colonel Tom Parker.
But the concept of “loneliness” – and its societal costs -- has come back into vogue recently, as even prominent politicians and cultural figures such as 2016 Democrat presidential nominee loser “Crooked” Hillary Clinton saw fit to address the topic in op-ed form. Politics watchers might suggest Hillary has been lonely her whole life, the willing participatory victim of being married to a notorious philandering husband who’s never seen a skirt he didn’t chase.
“According to the surgeon general, when people are disconnected from friends, family, and communities, their lifetime risk of heart disease, dementia, depression, and stroke skyrockets. Shockingly, prolonged loneliness is as bad, or worse, for our health as being obese or smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. Researchers also say that loneliness can generate anger, resentment, and even paranoia. It diminishes civic engagement and social cohesion, and increases political polarization and animosity...
“The surgeon general’s warning echoes the findings of other researchers who have studied these trends for decades. In his influential 2000 book, Bowling Alone, the Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam showed that Americans’ social ties and support networks collapsed in the second half of the 20th century. Many of the activities and relationships that had defined and sustained previous generations, such as attending religious services and joining unions, clubs, and civic organizations—even participating in local bowling leagues—were disappearing…
“The way Americans—and young people in particular—interact with technology today, the way our phones and social-media networks inject bullying, abuse, misinformation, outrage, and anger directly into our brains, is not something any of us could have foreseen just a few short decades ago. When I wrote It Takes a Village, I was concerned about the effects on young people of violence on TV. Now, in the age of social media, those worries almost seem quaint.”
Crooked Hillary concluded her piece by rhetorically asking, “What does all of this loneliness and disconnection mean for our democracy?”
Don’t you mean our republic, Madame Clinton? While I honestly admit that I agreed with at least some of the Chardonnay-soaked woman’s points in her out-of-the-blue op-ed on loneliness, I was at a loss to explain why she was writing it, except perhaps to revive interest in her signature work and stimulate re-print book sales. I recall the controversy surrounding “It Takes a Village” when it first came out, because Hillary Clinton didn’t seem like the proper person to be lecturing anyone about parenting – or the role of government in society, either.
Or it could be that Hillary was trying to blame today’s loneliness epidemic on Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress who oppose the Democrats’ incessant efforts to dump money on every problem, real or perceived. If someone is lonely, it’s someone else’s fault, right?
Similarly, I’m equally baffled to decipher how Hillary proposes to cure the social plague of loneliness, other than to heavily imply that government should take a more prominent role in ensuring that each human soul should have a subsidized friend or two and maybe even to require that folks be compelled to leave their homes to engage in “Village” activities that will cure a percentage of cases of loneliness.
Or it could be she’s advocating for a new federal entitlement to long-term care triggered by a loneliness gauge, if it’s not already covered under the financially teetering Medicare program.
Loneliness is a social phenomenon generated by cultural factors as well as actuarial conditions in modern society. Until recently, at least, people were living longer, which naturally means that spouses, friends, coworkers and neighbors tend to leave the scene. My grandmother outlived her husband and all her closest friends. Towards the end of her life, she lived alone – by her choice – and, by all appearances, went a little crazy. Loneliness is indeed a conundrum and can’t be dealt with by the sweep of a bureaucrat’s pen.
My grandmother’s situation was the natural part of loneliness that it would be extremely difficult for government to devise a solution to. What Hillary mentioned, loosely lumped together as “technology” as a loneliness exacerbator, would be much harder to solve or regulate, since it deals with free will and, to a large extent, free speech. Social media was sprung upon the world, and at least some of us, two or more decades ago, foresaw the enigmas it would bring.
Facebook in particular was billed as a terrific new online innovation that would allow families and distance challenged friends to share news and photos with just a few clicks of the mouse. The platform was soon taken over by people with too much time on their hands who felt an urge to share the inspiration to go to the store – or even perform mundane tasks.
Politics crept into the situation and soon all aspects of social media was inundated with candidate ads, pitches, slanted posts, etc. Hillary complained about “bullying, abuse, misinformation, outrage, and anger directly into our brains,” most, I might add, from the left side of the ideological spectrum. We discovered during the COVID hype that what a liberal labels “misinformation” used to be called “free speech and debate” in the open forum of ideas. It used to be citizens of a free society would trust each other to educate ourselves and each other on such things and form our own opinions based on the totality of data.
Including discussions on loneliness. I can’t help but think the increase in loneliness and divisions in America is due to the utter deterioration of old customs and norms and the general consensus that used to exist on topics like patriotism, freedom of worship, gender roles, educational curriculum, support for law enforcement, immigration enforcement and the generally held belief that America is great because of its constitutional system, not because of politicians occupying an office.
Also, that America has endured through hundreds of years of history -- good, bad, strange, cruel, ugly, triumphant, sad and inspirational at the same time? And that this nation’s Founding Fathers were a gifted, though not personally perfect, generation of forward-thinking political leaders?
The story of the writing and adoption of the Declaration of Independence alone defines what binds us together, not separates us into pods and walled-off rooms.
We can tell the kids to put the phone down at the dinner table, but how can we shut off the left’s ongoing movement to transform America into an “anything goes” “woke” fiefdom for shallow minded losers who end arguments with accusations of bias or racism? Didn’t Kamala Harris used to (she might still do it) introduce herself and then give her pronouns? Would it have occurred to someone to do that when “It Takes a Village” came out in 1996?
If anything, an overabundance of demands from the left have made people lonelier, not happier. The left told us (they didn’t ask) that parents had to send their children to schools where biological boys who pretend to be girls must be allowed to share restroom and locker room facilities. Then traditional conservative business people were ordered by the government to perform their services for same-sex couples regardless of deeply held religious beliefs.
The strong-arming’s gotten even worse under Joe Biden’s “administration.” Who hasn’t heard of the pro-life activist (Mark Houck) who had his home raided by the FBI simply for having the audacity to pray with his son outside an abortion clinic? Or conservative originalist Supreme Court justices who were besieged in their own homes by radical leftists who ignored federal privacy laws?
Would people be less lonely if they went out and hugged their local leftist activists? There is frequently some sort of protest in front of the local courthouse -- should “traditional” folks confront and engage the protesters in civic discussions? Or would said free speech advocates more likely risk getting beat up and assaulted by the purveyors of forced change?
It seems obvious that government itself has propelled the loneliness epidemic by making decent people afraid to express their opinions in public lest they be “judged” according to the new “woke” notions of correctness and acceptability. How easy is it, for instance, for a person who supports Donald Trump to announce what he or she feels without fear of reprisal from the “enlightened” liberals in the vicinity?
If Americans are lonely now, it’s due to being afraid to be themselves and caring too much what other people think of them. Judgement and censure are tools liberals use to silence unpopular thought, and in recent years, anything that has to do with traditional values has been deemed off limits by the thought police. Bring back freedom of expression and there will be a lot fewer lonely people.
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