Jonah Goldberg

Lucy Tighe Goldberg, my 9-month-old baby girl, uttered her first word this week. She said "Tajikistan," though she said it with a silent "n." In fact, she's such a genius she managed to mention the name of that central Asian nation while holding four fingers and part of a sock in her mouth - and in a Cambodian accent!

I'm deeply thankful for that. Indeed, I'm thankful for everything about her, including her desire to start a fusion rock band: "The Explosive Pants Project: Featuring Lucy." But even if you aren't so fortunate as this proud poppa - and, really, how could you be? - there's much for everyone to be thankful for.

We all know that the media have a tendency to focus on bad news. Between every occasional plane crash, tens of millions of flights arrive safely at their destinations, but nobody wants to hear about that.

Even when the media - or Hollywood for that matter - focus on good news, they tend to make it seem like it's a cheery exception to the normally bleak rule. Good Samaritans are treated like four-leaf clovers in a population of weeds, even though Americans are astoundingly tolerant, generous and decent people.

What better time than Thanksgiving to keep that in mind?

This year we have cause for some bonus thankfulness; Gregg Easterbrook has come out with a wonderful book called "The Progress Paradox," which attempts to explain why we think things are getting worse even as they get better.

Easterbrook catalogs a staggering array of statistics demonstrating that material and even moral improvement is the norm. The moral improvement is debatable, but the material improvement isn't.

Almost every environmental trend - with the exception of greenhouse gas emissions, which Easterbook thinks is more of a problem than I do - has been moving in a positive direction in the United States and Europe.

A quarter of a century ago, only one-third of America's lakes and rivers were clean enough to swim or fish in. Today, two-thirds are. "Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay, Lake Erie and the Hudson River and other important water bodies have gone from imperiled to mainly clean," writes Easterbook.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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