The Never-Ending Pursuit of Happiness (Gwen Moritz Editor's Note)

by Gwen Moritz  on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 12:00 am  

The dream of an ideal community is as fundamental to human longing as perfectly balanced meals and six-pack abs — but even less attainable because, well, there are all those other people involved.

I read “Lost Horizon” years ago and loved the movie with Ronald Colman, and that “Andy Griffith Show” episode about the stranger who fell in love with Mayberry after reading his Army buddy’s hometown newspaper is one of the best.

Some families from my church actually did develop their own cul-de-sac. But they didn’t put a fence around it, and I doubt they have the kind of restrictive covenants that residents of The Falls of Arcadia had to abide by in “The X-Files” episode about a gated community.

As it turns out, Shangri-La wasn’t perfect, and neither was Mayberry. And Scully and Mulder discovered that The Falls of Arcadia was downright deadly. Every once in a while you hear about a commune that has survived since the idealistic 1960s, but most of them fell apart pretty quickly over the usual things — money, power, sex. (That Occupy Wall Street group — how’d that work out?)

So I was mildly amused when I read some weeks ago about a planned community called “The Citadel” to be built in some undetermined location in the panhandle of Idaho. Although there would be no dreaded homeowners association, every able-bodied resident age 13 and up would be required to be armed and to prove proficiency with both handgun and rifle (skills which would be taught in school). In a place like that, surely there’d be nothing to fear from conflicts over money, power and sex.

I gave no more thought to The Citadel until last week, when the brilliant comedian Stephen Colbert mentioned it along with another drawing-board paradise: Glenn Beck’s Disneyesque “Independence, USA” — a bastion of freedom and liberty, as long as you don’t want your own backyard and don’t mind a central planning authority deciding which clothing stores are allowed.

The idea of creating closed societies in which everyone thinks alike and wants the same things sounds to me like the polar opposite of a free society, but that’s just me. My experience as a parent is limited to two sons still of college age, but that’s enough to make me want to warn the planners of The Citadel that kids don’t necessarily embrace the values and passions of their parents.

And eventually there will be disagreements even among people who are generally like-minded. One side will win, one side will lose, and before you know it The Citadel of Utopian Independence is just another small town with some and eventually all of the problems common to human coexistence.

No wonder even the drafters of the Constitution of the United States of America, as ambitious as anyone in history about the possibilities of a free and democratic society, could only go so far as to attempt “a more perfect union.”

***

Maybe it’s because the biggest problems facing our country are so complicated that people want to reduce them to simplistic platitudes and bumper-sticker wisdom.

If only the solution to gun violence really was as simple as a good man with a gun always being present and instantly prepared to stop a bad man with a gun.

 

 

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