There is a great deal of soul-searching going on in the United States as our 234th birthday arrives. Though nowhere near the soul-searching that loomed in Independence Hall 234 years ago today.
We fret about deficits. We fret, on the other side of the coin, about a slowing recovery that desperately needs more stimulation—the message of 1937's halt to recovery looms. We fret about immigrants—too many of the undocumented sort; but not enough of those educated at our research universities sticking around. We fret about education in general—too many boys dropping out early, in a world where a college degree is almost a requirement for many jobs.
We fret about China's amazing economy. And Osama's plans for us.
We fret about the Supreme Court becoming too conservative—maybe cap "C" Conservative rather than a lower-case "c" conservative; and we worry about Ms. Kagan's being too liberal—Liberal with an upper case "L."
We fret about the Gulf spill; and we fret about the screaming need for energy independence.
And yet ...
And yet we still lead the world in pretty much everything. Despite, or thanks to, our 234th consecutive year of political vitriol, our cap "D" Democracy is as strong or stronger than ever. (Incidentally, the political rancor was much worse then than now—and much, much worse in beloved Philly 11 years after the Declaration, in the muggy summer of 1787 when the Constitutional Convention was in full swing—by the by, the grandees of Philly '87 took a long break to celebrate the Declaration of Independence.)
Our education system is not ready for the coming economy—but neither is anybody else's. This transition is causing everyone to scramble. And our university system, despite budget woes of the first order, is waaaaay ahead of the pack in terms of research produced and at or near the head of the pack in share of population nabbing college degrees.
We still have a ways to go, but we are utilizing the one half+ of the population labeled female more productively than others.
Our entrepreneurs, though a little short of new cash, are still, as they should be, the envy of the world—and now our women entrepreneurs are as vigorous as their male counterparts. (That is, the "other half"-plus is in the game with verve.)
Our small businesses by the million are still the rock upon which we stand.
Afghanistan is a godawful mess, but our defense in general is powerful beyond measure. And others' soldiers are surely brave, but we have nothing but thanks to aim at our soldiers and sailors and airmen (and "airwomen"!) and marines and coast-guarders, and our reserves and their sacrifices. God bless those in uniform one and all.
And in the world at large there's good news to balance the bad. While the papers feature the bad news, the good goes under-reported. The solid Democracies in Europe (cash flow issues not withstanding) and Japan and India and dozens of other places are more or less solid as a rock. Though we worry about China, China has a worry list to match us—the growing pains accompanying growth, and the hundreds of millions left behind, are enormous problems. The emergence of the likes of Brazil is nothing but good news—and even our brothers and sisters in Africa may be beginning their long march to being less worse off economically—and perhaps solid growth.
There's enough bad news about which to fret to keep us occupied. And enough good news to, frankly, bring a pretty broad smile, as we get ready for #234.
We do not rule the world unchallenged as we foolishly, for 10 minutes, thought we did when the Cold War came to its 4-decade close. But we are in pretty damn good shape over all. I speak as an American with 67 years of experience when I say I sure as hell wouldn't trade places with anybody, respect the others as I do.
Works for me!
Happy birthday, old girl. We're having one hell of a run!
Before blogging became all the rage, Tom was posting book reviews and Observations (essentially early blog posts) to this site. You can find the archives below.
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