V. D. Hanson is moaning and gnashing his teeth. Americans are depressed because things are so bad, and so on, and he is too. Perhaps untrue to type, I want to dissent somewhat from his gloomy view. I offer no evidence, only impressions and points of view.
The economy -- yes, things look bad now, but I think the worst of the recession will be over in a year or two, and that's not so bad when compared to the Great Depression say. There is still enormous potential in the American economy, especially in its creative segments and in the willingness to work that Americans have compared to the Europeans, if not the Chinese. We still have the secret of liberty figured out more than anywhere in the world. There are people who want to ruin our economy, but it is far from clear they will get to. Resistance is already building rapidly to budget-busting schemes. People are finding their voices. I'm not sure that this crisis will turn out to be the opportunity that Rahm et al. think it was going to be. This is a testament to our system of government, for all of its weaknesses. It makes it hard to do the stupidest things quickly, though it makes smart things impossible as well. So there is room for deep concern, and attention, but despair is not warranted at the moment.
American culture -- yes, our most public culture is cracking up and decaying, but at the same time thousands of flowers, lichen, vines, weeds, you name it are growing up in all the cracks and vacant lots. I am sure more Americans are reading more good books and writing more good prose than at any time in our history. Huge amounts of dreck are produced to be sure. But there has never been a time in our history when more Americans had access to the best that has been written and thought and were taking advantage of it. There is going to be more and more of this. In ten years, for a $100 you will be able to carry the equivalent of a university library with you whereever you go. This is a big deal. I notice that ordinary people are more informed than at any time in my life. People forget how much ignorance there was in the 1960s and '70s in a typical American town. This aspect of the world has changed and for the better. I also don't agree about Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner and so on. Sure, they were fine writers. But I think they were also major beneficiaries of a rich-getting-richer dynamic where they were made part of the canon and promoted to be culture heros. Now that system is breaking or has already broken up. American publishing isn't controlled by what I've heard called a cabal of twenty liberal women from Manhattan (sorry, but that's how a famous conservative writer described it in a candid moment). There's a whole world now of self-publication now on the Web, and that's just beginning. Most of what's published is bad, but most of anything always is. I am much more impressed by how many people on their blogs, for example, write well, even really well, and have a lot to say. There are lots of thoughtful people out there and they can talk and listen to each other as never before. Old gatekeepers are gone. This is not going to lead to some sort of nirvana, but it's a powerfully good thing. It will make it much harder to strip people of their freedom, for one thing. Sort of the intellectual equivalent of the Second Amendment.
Religion, values and all that -- I don't agree that we are going to hell. I teach youngsters for a living and I am continually impressed by their resolve and courage. They are plenty smart but one thing I have learned I think is that character you can never have too much of, while intelligence you need enough of but after a certain amount it is almost irrelevant, if you are not an astrophysicist or something. Kids these days, from what I can see, are strong and brave. Look at them in Iraq, for heaven's sake. Compare our military now to the US Army in Vietnam. There are grave social problems, but I remember the seventies and early eighties. In many ways, the country's values are much healthier now.
I could be completely wrong, but Obama is beginning to look to me as a kind of Jimmy Carter. He is either going to change himself, or people are going to cast him aside. I don't think he has what it takes (knock on wood) to lead us off of cliff. I don't think enough people will follow him. In fact, I think a lot of moderates and independents may have learned or be about to learn a lesson.
I'm one of nature's pessimists. I see the glass as half full, with poisoned water. Even so, I really think our best days are ahead of us. The people who would like to stamp out or cabin inside of the state the best things about this country, have come along a few decades too late. I could be wrong, but I don't think so.