Here is a column I currently have in the Washington County Observer:
One can view the health of America as the glass half empty or the glass half full.
The glass half empty is that America’s role on the world stage is over.
Consider the venality of our leaders in politics, media, and business; the unbridled hedonism of consumers; the ignorance of the bread-and-circuses masses; a Republican President saying we needed to destroy capitalism to save it; the mistaking of the last presidential election for an episode of American Idol.
The can-do American spirit is declining, we think. The America that provided moral, economic, and military leadership for decades is collapsing in its own obese self-centered success.
Many in the world are becoming afraid, thinking “If America declines, what happens to us? Who protects us from the growing strength of China? Or the stifling repression of jihad?”
Mindless bureaucracies running our schools are assaulting our children for the most minor infractions in the name of “zero tolerance.” The same absurdities are strangling businesses, meeting us as we board airplanes, dictating to us what to eat or what kind of light bulbs to buy, prohibiting our home Bible studies.
To which fattened politicians only respond: “Give us more money. We need more money! Give us more, you selfish ingrates, you! It’s for the children (and our pay, pensions, lives above the law, perks, plush buildings, limousines, etc., etc.)”
The glass half empty.
But I’d rather examine the glass half full. Because we’ve been down much of this road before. And it was turned around.
In the late 1970s, the economy was bad, gas prices had tripled in six years, interest rates were usurious, Iran held our embassy workers hostage, economists scratched their heads over the contradictions of stagflation, and our president, Jimmy Carter, basically told us to expect less, dampen our hopes, and accept decline.
But the people refused. In 1980 they elected a president whose policies jump-started nearly a quarter century of sustained prosperity and general optimism.
More than his conservative ideology, his strength, his intuitive feel for leadership or his self-deprecating humor, Ronald Reagan knew how to harness a powerful force: the people of America. Away with pessimism, Reagan said, speaking of a city shining on a hill, calling forth the real nature – the optimistic nature -- of the American people.
Reagan is dead. But America – with its ideal – is not.
I call it the American DNA and I see it everywhere.
It’s in the great young people I teach on my college campus. It’s in the sterling courage and sense of duty among those I meet in our military (where did we find such people?).
It’s in the rookie political activists I come in contact with – people who recently have altered their lifestyles by running for office, working in campaigns, organizing grassroots activities, speaking in public, giving up their privacy.
It’s in the industrious, creative people who get up every morning and make things happen in spite of their leaders.
The DNA of America.
It’s the glass half full.