These are awful times. We’ve now been engaged in the war against terror for a dozen years. The economy has been on the rocks for seven years, with no sign of improvement. Unemployment continues to plague the nation, as millions more Americans sign up for federal assistance and disability payments. Babies are being born out of wedlock, fathers are deserting their families, and in New York you can’t even buy a large soda on a hot day.
And then there is immigration — a system so clogged by illegals that you can’t even call a business without specifying whether you will speak English or some other language.
This is an awful time that is only going to get worse, with ruin and destruction of our culture imminent. Right? Well, in the immortal words of one of my boyhood heroes, John Wayne:
The truth is that in spite of hardships and adversity, this is a pretty good time to be alive. Sure, old codgers like me love to complain about society, morality and the economy. That’s part of growing old, as is the yearning for those seemingly easier, gentler, more sane years we experienced as children. As the fourth century philosopher Plato noted (quoting his mentor, Socrates):
“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they allow disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children now are tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”
Before you buy into the idea that life today is terrible, consider this: It has been worse. Far, far worse. As in the turn of the 20th Century, when millions died of influenza. Or during the Great Depression, when it was (shockingly!) far worse than now. Or the Civil War, which saw more Americans die in a single day at Gettysburg than on any day before or since. Or the days when we practiced hiding under our desks in fear of a nuclear attack.
Today, crime has fallen to its lowest rate in decades. Drug use is down. Drunk driving is down. The life expectancy of the average American is up to 78 years. The weather is relatively mild, despite the incoherent ramblings of the climate chicken-littles. Politicians are no more corrupt than they used to be. Charitable giving is up, as is volunteerism.
Even the Internet and social media, long castigated as the beginning of the destruction of commerce, civility and human interaction, is driving a new era of connectedness…especially within families, where it allows grandma to (finally!) get regular pictures of the grand-critters, and even communicate with them.
Yes, we face challenges. Terrorism, socialism, a sluggish economy, changing values, diabetes, cancer, and a government that lies to us. But none of these is new, and none is likely to end the human spirit.
Every day, people fall in love. Some of them aren’t even of the same race; some are of the same gender. Every day, people marry. Everyday, people bring new babies into this world. And on the good news side, births out of wedlock are falling, as are divorce rates.
You could blame the national feeling of malaise on the 24/7 news cycle, which now demands news — mostly bad — to fill all the hours of every day. But even here, we have to note that more positive news is creeping into the reportage. And we have the ability to be the best-informed generation in history, even if half of the information on the Internet is suspect and we disagree on the meaning of the news we hear.
This is the finest time to be alive, to live in America, and to be young or old. It cannot hope to match the cherished memories of our youth, whether those memories revolve around coonskin caps or the Might Morphin’ Power Rangers. But it is pretty damned good.
The worst time to be alive?