It's easy, these days, to get feel lost or down or despairing; all that hope that President Obama packed with him and took to Washington seems to be in short supply, and there's a lot of pessimism about where the country is, and where it's going. Financial troubles, wars, health care problems... people are starting, I think, to doubt the American ideal.
It's time, therefore, to remind people about what I originally said over on The Best Of Everything: feeling patriotic that day, listening to "The Hold Steady" and caught up in the fun and patriotism of the Independence Day we'd just celebrated, I reviewed how I'd first come to know what it means to be an American. How I phrased it was:
An American decides, in the face of a flood, to lift the ground he stands on.
That was true in the Galveston Flood. It was true since then, and it's true now. When Americans see waters rising, we don't flee. We don't learn to swim. We don't build a dam. We simply make the ground higher.
I don't know why people don't still believe that, or why most people, at least, don't believe it. This is a country that began its existence by beating the then-greatest world power. We then marched across the continent -- in some cases digging by hand through mountains. We won not one, but two world wars. We walked on the moon.
Financial crisis? Foreclosures? Health insurance costs? Are any of those more difficult to tackle than landing a spaceship on the moon? Than digging through mountains?
Are any of them more difficult to tackle than raising the surface of an island so that it doesn't flood?
I'm amazed that people think these problems are something to despair about, or that they are intractable. They are complicated. They are expensive. Sure. But they're nothing to get upset over. They are simply something to look at, and to roll up our sleeves, and to say, as Americans have always done: Well, let's get going on this.
So when you look at the news on the front page, when you listen to the reporters talking about the gloom, don't insist that we cover only "good" news. Don't turn away from the troubles. Don't opt to page over to the comics. Instead, take a glance at the American flag you fly outside your house -- you do fly one, don't you? -- and square your shoulders off, and begin lifting the ground we all stand on.