In the land of opportunity, where unemployment rates are low and medical care is accessible to all, America appears to be a paradise. Loopholes even provide free healthcare to those who invest time in researching their options, and bankruptcy offers a safety net for those who overspend. Yet, beneath the surface, there is a different story unfolding.
The United States is collapsing with an epidemic of addictions, with hundreds of millions of people dependent on prescription pills and opioids. Countless individuals are burdened with “bipolar disorder” and many other psychiatric problems, relying on medications that physically alter their brains. Loneliness afflicts over 170 million people, and more than 21 million adults battle with depression. Moreover, the prevalence of marijuana usage is such that its smell wafts through towns.
Contrastingly, my experiences in El Salvador nearly two years have revealed a different reality. While I have encountered only one person who uses marijuana, the scourge of opioids, fentanyl, heroin and other illicit drugs that plagues the United States is virtually nonexistent here. Alcohol and cigarettes stand as the primary substance issues. Bipolar disorder is not something that readily comes to mind, and while depression does exist, it is rare for individuals to rely on medication as a solution. Salvadorans grow up with the understanding that life is filled with difficulties, accepting their fate with resilience. For those who choose not to confront their problems head-on, some turn to alcohol or simply work harder to cope.
Most Americans remain unaware of the bubble of fantasy they inhabit. In El Salvador, and in around 80% of the rest of the world, unimaginable deep poverty is the norm, yet many people find contentment within their means. In contrast, despite their wealth, a significant portion of Americans experience anxiety, depression, and worry. Materialism, it seems, does not equate to happiness.
As I reflect upon the stark differences between these two nations, I can't help but feel sorry for my fellow citizens. While they have access to an abundance of resources, they often find themselves trapped in a cycle of anxiety and discontent. El Salvador, on the other hand, teaches its people the closeness of family and friends, reminding us that a simple life can bring contentment.
In the end, it is not a matter of one nation having a definitively better life than the other. Instead, it is a reminder that the pursuit of happiness cannot be solely dependent on material wealth. The contrasting experiences of America and El Salvador highlight the importance of finding inner peace and contentment amidst the challenges of life, regardless of the external circumstances.