Are America’s best days behind her?

Not much time to blog today, so I give the Bookwormroom readers a challenge.  As a child of the 60’s I remember (barely) when Americans were optimistic.  Most Americans of the 1950s believed the “march of progress” was a very real thing.  The world was constantly improving and America was leading the charge into a bright future. 

While my generation, the children of the 60’s, started out hopelessly and naively optimistic, we quickly bumped our noses up against the real world.  Most of us ended up cynical and disheartened.  The Vietnam War killed off American optimism, perhaps for all time.

Thus, my challenge.  Do any of the Bookwormroom readers believe that America’s best days are still ahead of her?  Can anyone make a convincing case that America will emerge from all of the present day problems stronger and better than ever and march into a bright future in which our children and grandchildren will be happy and healthy and the world will be a better place than it is today? 

11 Responses

  1. […] Chime in on the big question Don Quixote poses over at Bookworm Room. […]

  2. If America wins, then happy days will result. If America fails and proves herself too weak for this world, then there will be no growth and no happiness.

  3. Sounds like we’re about the same age. (I’m 51.) I, too witnessed the twists and turns of the national mood (and character) over the decades.
    This panelist must raise the “Not Hopeful” card, I’m afraid. I so want not to. I still have a lot of fun at my own work and life, and I see evidences of American vibrancy and human virtue, but I’m afraid the sum total of it still doesn’t add up to a critical mass. Yes, I know that you can find bright young Americans signing up to defend our nation’s security. Yes, I know our economy is robust. Yes, I know you can find little pockets here and there of cultural vitality. And I know about the surveys showing that 80-plus percent of Americans are bolstered by spiritual faith. I know there are lots of families out there that have warmth, humor, courage and integrity as their foundations.
    But, I’m sorry, I also see what a dumbed-down, hard, bitter, jaded take on the world characterizes not only our pop culture but our supposed fine art. I see how easily the freedom-haters in our national legislature can distort or entirely circumvent common sense, historical perspective and even a rudimentary understanding of free-market economics and human nature. I see how pervasive dhimmitude is in arenas such as education, journalism, and corporate commerce.
    The latter, not the former, has the momentum.
    You’ll notice I say nothing about throwing in the towel. No matter what’s going on around me, I won’t disappoint my Creator by going that route. As long as I breathe, it is incumbent upon me to be an agent of light.

  4. Of course I don’t think America’s best days are behind us! We’re Americans and we still control our destiny. As a country, we have been through much worse (Civil War, Great Depression, Jimmy Carter, anyone?).

    As a European cousin of mine in the financial industry once told me, he never worries about the U.S. because he knows that, when the going gets tough, Americans roll up their sleeves and do what needs doing.

    For a good dose of perspective, read de Toqueville’s Democracy in America about the state of culture and substance abuse in the early 19th Century. Plus, our vitality gets renewed again and again by waves of immigrants that, despite visceral opposition, come to this country, work hard and revitalize the American dream.

    Sure, we suffer from the intellectual and moral depredations of effete elites but they, too, shall pass into historical irrelevancy. There has always been a fight in this country between competing influences (Abraham Lincoln had his Copperheads to deal with just like GW has the Democrat/Left) but that is in part what keeps us vital. Also, don’t discount that we go through cycles – some say that we are in the midst of another religious “awakening”, for example.

    America is like a great stew of competing ideas and influences on a slow boil – you never know what will come to the surface at any one time but the aroma is delicious! We are a can-do people and we will do what we need to do and we are blessed with, to use Barney’s phrase, many, many “agents of light”.

    Maybe the reason that so many people tend to lose hope and be depressed about the state of the country is that the Information Age continually blasts them with our country’s negatives. We can’t lose sight of all the positives, however, which far surpass our negatives. If you don’t believe me, live in another country for a while.

  5. Despite occasional bouts of despair for the future, I’m guardedly optimistic. I grew up in the 1970s, rather than the ’60s, so I’ve watched our country pull itself out of a near-depression and rise to remarkable heights.

    If we can keep the Democrats at bay for another four or eight years, I think they will have to purge the far-left poison from their party’s ideological core, and the tedious old Baby Boomers will start retiring from politics, leaving the field to more pragmatic and, yes, patriotic younger leaders. That will have a salutary effect on the Republicans, as well.

    What I fear is that they will get complete power, in which case we’re in for a period of “malaise,” economic depression, and geopolitical failure worse than even the Ford-Carter years. The recovery will take longer, and the damage to ourselves and the rest of the world will be far greater.

  6. Danny, your optimism is so appealing I’m nearly tempted to let you have my vote.
    Speaking of votes, I think Trimegistus is exactly right that the outcome in 08 will probably decide the real answer to the question Don Quixote has posed here.

  7. History is never set in stone. Some things are inevitable, but they are only ever opportunities for downfall and elevation. Even stone erodes in time.

  8. Gazing into my crystal ball, as the fog lifts, I see trouble brewing. Never in our nations storied history have so many citizens become dependent on government for survival. The problem is how do you out vote these dependents? I believe we are at the point where more people derive their living from government than are paying into the system. The largest employer in our largest cities is government. Though these folks pay taxes they are still a net drain. And I am not saying that some are services we cannot do without, just pointing out the drains on taxes. We all know the situation with social security. The people have figured out that they can vote themselves money and now its Katy bar the door.

    At what point do the contributers to society jettison the slackers?

    How much more in taxes are the contributers willing to pay?

    With socialism on our horizon, think of health care, how do we stop it?

  9. This is one of those incredibly FUN questions that let you take a few steps back and survey the scene, and make pronouncements about “the world as I see it.” Something I love, but I’ll try to reduce my worst instincts.

    I’m guardedly optimistic.

    On the negative side, our move from a manufacturing economy to a service economy is riskier than our move from an agrarian economy to a manufacturing economy. We’re incredibly dependent on foreign nations who may not be friendly.

    Rockdalian has a point: When the voting public has been trained to socialism, it may be impossible to get that same voting public to abandon it when its failures become clear. What would be the result?

    Also negatively, we are seeing Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock” effect of increasingly rapid change take effect along with the fear and uncertainty caused by globalization.

    On the positive side, we Americans just keep on transforming and transforming. In all of our insane lurching about, we near-magically seem to keep on improving on the average. Don’t like what you see this year? Wait and it will change. The Democrats and liberalism are on the ascendancy – avoid giddiness, my liberals, and avoid despondency, my conservatives… this too shall pass. The constant fermentation bubbling throughout the entire American scene guarantees it.

    We may hit our own Depression-like catastrophic collapse. Many things may go wrong. Terrorists may succeed in nuking several American cities. A decade or more of struggle and economic pain may occur. Even under such grim scenarios, those who make it through will simply keep moving forward.

    So, potential for a lot of pain is there… along with a near certainty that we’ll overcome even that, is what I see. Guarded optimism for me.

  10. Are we rolling downhill like a snowball headed for Hell?
    With no kind of chance for the flag and the Liberty Bell?
    I wish a Ford and a Chevy would still last ten years,
    Like they should
    Is the best of the free life behind us now?
    Are the good times really over for good?

    Stop rolling downhill like a snowball headed for Hell
    Stand up for the flag and let’s all ring the Liberty Bell
    Let’s make a Ford and a Chevy still last ten years,
    Like they should
    ‘Cause the best of the free life is still yet to come
    And the good times ain’t over for good

    Merle Haggard didn’t believe it, and neither do I. My children haven’t been raised to believe it. Have yours? I doubt it. Every generation thinks that the next one coming up is useless, listless, the sign of the apocalypse. It hasn’t turned out that way yet, and I don’t think that it will. Why should I think that? That’s exactly what the people who hate this country and all that it stands for want. I say screw them.

  11. I believe in the real America. America seems to doze until at the very brink of destruction, then opens her eyes and does what needs to be done. I have to believe that is still there.

    Some very good analyses, and mentions of the problems we are facing, but I do believe we will survive again — read Atlas Shrugged. It was written over 50 years ago and saw a scenario of people becoming so socialistic they drove all the movers and shakers out of the mainstream, and yet in the end it all resolved.

    I guess if I have to chose between optimism and pessism, I prefer optimism. I have hostages to fortune, quite a few of them, in fact.

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