Complaining could be the bane of a columnist. Most of what we do is observe other people and tell them what they’re doing wrong. Despite that I want to share with you a “horrible” day.
Recently, my wife and I went to a UCLA basketball game. I was already in a grumpy mood, having to get dressed and go out on a rainy Sunday night. UCLA had just returned from a heartbreaking loss at Kansas during which they showed signs that this year’s team was on the rebound from last year’s disappointing season. But they just blew this game amidst a truly poor outing. The 9th ranked women’s team would have likely fared better. Like the rest of the crowd, we left the arena early in a very dejected frame of mind.
When we arrived home, we found that the power was out in our neighborhood. In Los Angeles, a little rain wreaks havoc. We always enter our house through the garage and never use a house key, but without any power our garage door wouldn’t open, and we had neglected to take our house key with us. We spent a few moments in our driveway, wistfully looking at our lovely but powerless house that we couldn’t enter. Ultimately, we were able to contact our house-sitter who thankfully had a key. The 30 minute round-trip drive proved to be a waste as we returned to home to find the power restored. On top of that, I found that my article had not been posted by my editor, meaning it wouldn’t be available per normal on Monday. With that, I wondered what would be the next shoe to drop.
For most Americans, this is what constitutes a bad day. Before someone spouts off about how insensitive I am about the struggles that people face, let me be clear that I am well aware of the suffering in this country. There are thousands of Americans who have lost their jobs and homes in this economic downturn, or are fighting horrible diseases, or were born into either severe economic conditions or to irresponsible parents.
But let’s face it; the worst day for most Americans would be a killer day for most of the rest of the world. Tom Friedman, author and New York Times columnist, loves to write about the Chinese surge and how America could learn from Chinese methods. To put things in perspective, the vast majority of mainland Chinese would love to be living at what we call our poverty line. China has more than twice the number of America’s total population who live in unimaginable poverty. When the Chinese surpass us in Gross Domestic Product, it will mean that the average Chinese citizen is living at 25% of our living standard. So really, how bad do we have it?
America faces a lot of challenges, but what’s new? We have confronted challenges before and have overcome them. Whenever we’ve been told that our country was falling down a sinkhole, we have woken up to say “This is America – we have to fix things because we owe it to the next generation.”
Isn’t that what happened over the last two years, as Americans realized that their government cannot and should not do everything? We don’t want to be like Europe! So on November 2nd, we stood up and said “Halt!”
Even while 63% of Americans believe that this country is going in the wrong direction, we cannot depend on our elected officials to change that course. We must stop and declare that this country means something, something different than any country ever created, and that we demand to keep it that way.
I am never pessimistic about this country. I am always thankful for the right to live here and my birthright as an American. If you ever forget what this country is about, do something to connect to our basic values. You don’t need to recall the heroes of our past or focus on the miracles of our creative economy or applaud our Nobel Prize winners. Next fall spend your Friday night at a high school football game or a Saturday at a college football game. You will reconnect with the sense of community and core values of America and be reminded that we are different and that we have something special.
During this holiday season, be thankful that we have created this exceptional country and way of life. Now this Jewish boy is going to listen to some wonderful Christmas music, enjoy my family, and play with my puppies. And remember, it’s only a little over a month until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.