Land of the Free and Home of the Furious

Matt Shaner
4 min readJun 18, 2020

Writer Harry Enten published an article released on today with the title “Record Unhappiness Reigns as Americas Think Something has gone Awry in US.” You can find it here.

The gist of Enten’s short article is that, since May, we’ve gotten more upset as a whole. He sites a variety of surveys. At the moment, 9% of Americans are “not proud,” which equates to 20 million people. He mentions the causes we all know, from the pandemic to social and civil unrest.

The frustration is not totally partisan. People believe we are a country lost with no hope or direction for the future. Enten finishes the article with an aside that, hopefully, something will change.

Photo by Elliott Engelmann on Unsplash

My father spent his career working at a nuclear power plant. He was an Operator, with the responsibility to keep things running and safe. One evening, he had to change a light bulb on a motor in the plant. He took the bulb and went down to where the motor was housed.

He unscrewed the defective bulb and removed it. As he was screwing the new bulb in, it broke in his hand.

This set off an alarm at the plant. The alarm sounded at other facilities up and down the coast. It ended up costing the company a large amount of money, but they kept him on.

We’ve broken the light bulb in our hands and the alarm has sounded. Now the question is, how do we fix it?

How do we fix an education system still married to an agrarian farming calendar, lessons shaped to tests that determine funding results and classrooms focused more on keeping students in line than allowing them to explore interests (if a student is interested in coding, for example, why not train them for job responsibilities they could use the week after they graduate?).

How do we fix colleges that are often no more than debt factories, graduating students unable to function in a reality that is demanding different literacy, emotional abilities, and cognitive mining.

How do we fix a health system that is also a debt factory, when a test in one state can be thousands of dollars more than another, when an emergency room visit can ruin a family’s finances for a year and poverty becomes a barrier to life saving and sustaining treatment. How do we open the door on mental health and addiction supports and remove the stigma of those reluctant to engage the services they may need to survive.

How do we trust again?

Trust that employers are loyal, teachers care, kids will engage, community leaders will listen, schools will be safe, streets will be life and not death, those that serve will serve.

The answers are not easy, but Enten’s conclusion to the article is weak.

Change begins in reform and reconsideration.

Technology and advancement should drive education, for the pandemic has shown us a rusty and disjointed distance learning experience. What if it could work, though, and families would not have to choose between work and a school system serving as a day care provider. This would include taking down walls for urban centers and distributing technology, expanding the reach of quality internet access, and the building of trust within communities that may have leveled suspicious glances at each other before.

I’ve worked in the medical field for almost ten years now. The system is ready for change. There is not much of a difference between a hospital and a factory (ask your closest hospital employee), but their should be. People are not numbers. They are not astronomical bills that will never be paid as they are still recovering and have to put food on the table. The oath of doing no harm must be embraced again without the qualifier “only if you can pay.”

The days of Washington being populated by individuals in touch with their constituents, rising to face challenges, engaging in discourse driven by data and reality not politics and partisan agenda, those days are long gone.

Change begins in a spark.

The spark happens in a moment.

The spark happens in a moment of discomfort that pulls you to do something you would not have considered. Ask for help. Give help. Deliver that meal. Check on that neighbor.

Attend the community meeting. Join the non profit. Clean up the street corner and clear the curb.

When you walk through the door after a long day at work and your kids are excited to see you, and you feel yourself pulling your phone out. Maybe now, maybe tonight you stop and keep it in your pocket.

One action starts a process. A process starts a movement. Movement generates change at the core of its nature.

Maybe you are called to more, called to serve on a board or run for office.

Change, grand change, starts at home. Starts with you. Starts with your relationships, your marriage, your children, and your coworkers.

Change starts with courage to speak out even if the room isn’t listening.

Paradigms are built to be changed. Belief is a verb. Faith is fluid.

Americans are furious because we’ve given up on change, for there’s a fine line between hope and frustration. We’ve made “American” a noun and forgot it is a verb. We grasp our labels because they make us comfortable.

This nation was not founded on comfort.

So, maybe it is a good thing. Maybe this is the start of something bigger and better. If you are angry, I’m with you.

Lean into it and, deep down, you’ll feel that spark. Look around and you’ll see where the fire of change is ready to ignite.



Matt Shaner

Matt Shaner is a writer, husband, father, and believer living outside Reading, PA. You can find his blog and other writings at