Reasons to Celebrate America
After watching two of the most contentious, anger-filled political conventions that I can ever remember, it would be easy to get depressed about the state of our nation.
It’s hard to believe that participants of the respective major political parties could throw so many slings and arrows that a visitor would think they were describing enemies from another continent instead of their fellow Americans.
That’s why it was so refreshing to experience a burst of admiration and appreciation for the country after reading a recent issue of Time magazine.
If you haven’t seen the double issue (good thing it covered two weeks because it took me that long to look through it) from mid-July, it’s worth investing time and money in ordering a copy.
Billed as a “99 percent politics free” issue, the theme of the issue was “240 Reasons to Celebrate America Right Now.” Spanning most of the magazine, some of the entries in the list were as short as a paragraph, while others ran several pages.
One reason I came away more optimistic about the state of affairs can be found in reason #233, “Optimism Wins Out.” It detailed how nearly three-fourths of the U.S. reports feeling optimistic, a percentage that has remained steady since the Harris Poll started asking about this eight years ago.
If one were solely to judge from the vitriol that rages online, on talk shows and in other forums, you would likely come away with the opinion that everyone is down in the dumps and pessimism reigns supreme. (And yes, in my previous blog, I wrote about how tough people have it, but that doesn’t mean I’m writing off everything as hopeless.)
Balance such pessimism with Time’s two-page spread about the renaissance in our mid-size cities. It featured a photograph of the downtown riverfront in Louisville, Kentucky, which we called home for 12 years.
So much goes on outside the purview of national headlines and negative news that it’s easy to overlook the positives. Take the entry headlined “Cranberry capitalism.” Until I read it, I didn’t know that cranberry giant Ocean Spray is a collective. Its 700 growers produce two-thirds of the world’s cranberry harvest while sharing in the company’s bounty.
The story detailed the growth of the co-op model, which allows “workers become owners of capital rather than being dependent on a set wage.” It forecast continued expansion of this push, aided by technology that enables workers to unite across geographical boundaries and industry.
Living in West Virginia, I also appreciated the description from noted Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., of breakfast at Smoke Hole on the South Branch of the Potomac being “as close to Heaven” as you can get on earth. And another from West Virginia University President Gordon Gee about the resilience of the state’s residents.
The Full Picture
Then there were breathtaking double-page photo spreads. Among them: an outdoor Shakespeare production in Boise, Idaho; the Red Rocks Amphitheater west of Denver—bathed in golden hues near sunset; and the Jersey Shore, rebounded from its 2012 shredding by Hurricane Sandy.
Another interesting aspect of this issue was how it didn’t ignore our faults, either. There were such things as gripes about the lack of diversity among visitors to our national parks. Just-retired Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor listed nine things we should fix. There was also grumbling about LaGuardia Airport, where my brother worked for nearly 30 years.
Like any family, our national collection comes replete with flaws and shortcomings. We should remember that—on a personal basis—it’s only at funerals that we often realize what we had. Let’s hope it doesn’t take that before we learn to appreciate the United States of America.