Popular wisdom has it that the United States is officially a nation in decline. But when did this happen?
I feel that the rug has been jerked out from under me, that I woke up to some nightmare where the United States was taking its final curtain call.
I grew up with stories about the Great Depression of the 1930s from my grandfather. The primary difference between that economic crisis and this one was our hope as a nation for getting out of it. I was always struck in my grandfather’s stories by the camaraderie he described, the spirit of loving your neighbor, how folks would go out of their way to lift each other up and give each other what little they had. As bleak as things were, in a time when so many people lost everything, our grandparents and great grandparents never stopped believing that things would get better.
But this time around, I feel that it’s different. I feel like the nation isn’t just in a depression; we are clinically depressed. There’s a palpable sense that this crisis is here to stay, and a bleak future lies ahead.
I realize there is a whole host of reasons why we are where we are, but what alarms me is that we seem to have lost something fundamental to the American identity: our optimism.
I don’t want to seem naive. I know we’re in trouble. People are hurting right now due to the economy. I count myself in that number, and yet every day, I’m living and breathing the American Dream. Because the American Dream is more than just upward mobility. The American Dream is the freedom to say what needs to be said. It’s the freedom to practice my beliefs, or not, without persecution. Freedom to marry whom I want, have as many children as I want, or not. Freedom to criticize the government without being dragged off to jail, or worse. We enjoy a free press. There is no other nation on earth where you can change careers as many times as you like at any age, where you can go back to school and finish a degree later in life, or try out many careers until you find your calling. We are a nation that gives second chances, and third and forth and beyond. So why can’t we give our country another chance now?
Whenever I hear another 24-hour talking head shouting over the airwaves that we are a nation in decline and that it’s over for our country, I feel it’s a profound disservice to those who laid down their lives to give us the incredible gift of freedom we enjoy. What about their sacrifice? Let’s not squander it. We’re obsessed with the Fed’s every move, searching for anything at all that will give us the slightest indication of our economic future, but it seems we’ve abandoned our core values. What happened to the real American dream? What happened to “United We Stand,” and lifting each other up?
It seems we’ve lost love of country. No system of government is perfect, but let’s take a look at what we have. As a mother, I would gladly lay down my life to continue giving my daughter the freedoms that I treasure every day, if it were necessary.
I don’t think it will come to that. I for one do believe things are going to get better.
I hope that we and our children will walk in freedom always, and never forget to cherish what we’ve got.