OUTLOOK

America can keep hope alive

 
 
MCT
MCT
Rice / MCT

kathleenparker@washpost.com

America’s capacity for optimism and hope has been boundless through much of our short history.

The tangible returns of hard work; the ordered liberty sustained through community consent; and opportunity honed over time to apply equally to all men and women — these were the currency of what we called the American Dream.

Essential to these achievements was courage. The Founding Fathers were above all courageous as they challenged a king, fought and died for freedom, and created a country from scratch with little more than mettle and intellectual vigor.

If this isn’t exceptional, then we have lost the meaning of words.

As we begin yet another new year, it is less easy to summon the dream. Instead of hope, a word that brought us a new president, we have entered an era of envy and doubt — envy for those who have more, and doubt that we can ever dig ourselves out of debilitating debt. What happens when even our debtors no longer want our dollars anymore, as China recently declared? A country that no longer wants our money likely doesn’t want our debt, either.

Depending on whose prognostications one believes, we are either rebounding, by dribs and drabs, or perched on the precipice of economic ruin. Let’s figure we’re somewhere in between, which falls short of inspiring. What is certain is that our economic standing in the world is damaged, our credit and credibility are weak, and business confidence is still in limbo.

Do weak economies and moral decay go hand in hand? We certainly seem poised to find out.

From Miley Cyrus’ naked cavorting on a wrecking ball – well, one can at least admire her metaphoric succulence – to Anthony Weiner’s Twitter projections of His Very Own Self, we have lost all sense of decorum, that voluntary commitment to behavior that combines a willingness to consider others first (at minimum keeping our clothes on), enforced through the exercise of self-restraint.

Note the term self-restraint. No one’s arguing for a new Puritanism, heaven forbid, but a pivot toward responsible adulthood would be helpful in re-creating a culture that doesn’t pinch our faces with revulsion. How do we expect children to navigate through this tawdry muck to become the sort of people most of us would like to know?

Part of the problem is our sense of helplessness before the overwhelming power of technology, which has erased the physical boundaries of community. With so many liberated ids running around, it’s hard to find a safe place to grow children. Figure it out we must. Does shame have a place in the American Dream? Why aren’t irresponsible parenting and behavior as abhorrent to society as, say, smoking?

I suppose what I’m lamenting is the loss of our national imperative to do and be better. Where once we fashioned ourselves according to best behaviors, we now accommodate ourselves to the least. Take a look around a mall, if you can bear to enter. Valium recommended.

So, yep, we’re a mess, but, in the spirit of American optimism, not doomed. To preserve the dream, two resolutions come to mind: Denounce envy and resurrect the community standard.

Envy is the core emotion driving the current debate about income inequality and the notion that the poor are poor because the rich are rich. Nonsense. The economy is not, in fact, a pie. When one gets a bigger slice, others do not ipso facto get a smaller one. Instead of redistributing wealth to spread misery around, the goal should be to make the poor richer, which means jobs, education and tax/regulation relief for employers.

Fundamental to all else is allegiance to community standards – the tacit agreement among adults that our communities be as physically secure and psychologically safe as possible for the well-being of children, who, let’s do put a fine point on it, someday soon will be in charge. For guidance, the correct answer to nearly any question is another question: What is best for children?

Perhaps I am naive, but cynicism isn’t allowed today. And besides, I am in good company when I propose that America’s strength and well-being come from her goodness. Our lack of attention to our goodness, combined with our craving for instant gratification and near-toxic stimulation, has led us far afield from our Founders’ intentions. Don’t worry, my angel wings are in sorry shape.

We may have been created with a universal yearning for freedom, but we have learned through experience that freedom is earned rather than bestowed. To keep it, one must be vigilant.

All it takes is courage.

© 2014, Washington

Post Writers Group

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

  • CONGRESS

    Senators earn an ‘A’ for sexual assault bill

    Sen. Marco Rubio doesn’t have much time for Democrats. But he does have two daughters. And so it was that Wednesday morning, he found himself standing in solidarity with a bipartisan group of senators that included Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill as they announced legislation to curb the scourge of sexual assault on U.S. campuses.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">HARASSMENT:</span> Members of the Ladies in White opposition movement, relatives of imprisoned dissidents who draw inspiration from their faith, were arrested during a peaceful march in Havana last month.

    HUMAN RIGHTS

    Support religious freedom in Cuba

    This year marks the 55th anniversary of Cuba’s current government and July 26 commemorated the 61st anniversary of the revolution which swept it into power. After coming to power, the Castro government broke its pro-democracy pledges and, despite recent improvements, maintains a problematic record on human rights, including religious freedom.

  •  
SOLOW

    MIGRANT CRISIS

    Easy fix to offer relief to immigration courts

    Much has been written about the strain placed on the immigration court system by the recent influx of minors from Central America. A little known fact about the Immigration Court system, unlike every court in the land, virtually no immigration court cases are resolved without a hearing.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category