Thursday, May 19, 2005

Half Full Americans

The glass is half full. This, according to a recent poll by a New Jersey medical school, stunned the researchers. Yes, Americans are overwhelmingly optimistic. It's not that we, as Americans, don't have a lot to be positive about. We do, after all, live in a free and prosperous nation. It's just that we are positive and optimistic in the face of an unending media onslaught of how bad everything is and how terrible America is. Spending just one day bathed in mainstream media saturation we learn that Americans are fat, lazy, violent, stupid, self-absorbed and most of all, arrogant. According to conventional wisdom we trample on the rest of humanity while sucking up most of the worlds resources.

How can we Americans possibly feel good about ourselves and our future? Because we know the truth. We live the truth, and it's not what we see on TV. We know that people are basically decent and that it is the exceptions we read about in the paper. We know that our leaders, most of them anyway, are also decent human beings and "want" to do what's right. We know that the basic American system set forth in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are as solid and as fundamental as the day the quill was put to the parchment.

We also know our history. It is without question that each generation has lived longer, richer and healthier lives than the last. There no reason to assume this phenomenon won't continue. If we simply look at the plight of the elderly in 1905, one hundred years ago, it is almost unfathomable how far we have come as a society. Back then life expectancy was less than 60 years and the elderly were the poorest demographic in the country. Fast forward to 2005 and the elderly are far and away the richest demographic with many living well into their 80's . Why shouldn't we be an optimistic lot?

A while ago I posted a piece called "Put On a Happy Face" which explains exactly why the Department of Preventive Medicine & Community Health at the New Jersey Medical School came to this conclusion. As humans we may pine nostalgically for the "good old days" but as the Carly Simon song says - these ARE the good old days.

For all of us who get up each morning to put in an honest days work and in doing so reject the victim mentality we have confidence that things will be better tomorrow. Despite what foreign and domestic media pundits say about America, this nation, the land of the free and home of the brave, is still that shining beacon of freedom and hope for the politically and economically repressed. We witness this everyday as our borders are breached, our hospitals and schools reach capacity, all by desparate people who share in some way our American optimism.

Lastly, is it any coinsidence that America being the most religious nation is also the most optimistic? Well, is it?