In a relative sense, our problems pale in comparison to our past world wars and depressions, or those of our current competitors.
Unlike the United States, which is funding democratic change in Afghanistan and Iraq, Russia and China offer only brutal solutions to quench Islamic separatists in Chechnya and Xinjiang province. Neither country can square economic progress with human rights. Both have polluted their natural environment in ways inconceivable here.
Meanwhile, a shrinking Europe is disarmed in a dangerous world and can't assimilate its growing minorities.
We are still the world's third-largest petroleum producer with vast amounts of untouched oil. We have the world's largest coal reserves. Americans could use coal and nuclear power to generate most of our electrical needs and to charge hybrid electric cars.
Our universities remain the world's best, and we lead the world in cutting-edge technological innovation.
American elections are more wide open than ever before. Our next president will either be the first septuagenarian (when taking office), woman or African-American in the job.
America remains a meritocracy where no one is above the law. Unlike so many other places, success is predicated more on ability than race, class, tribe, religion or gender.
So while we exhibit outward symptoms of sickness, our inner constitution -- the real barometer of the health of a civilization -- is sound.
More importantly, there is a growing sense that Americans want to sacrifice to ensure our pre-eminence. Many conservatives are accepting that they can't just cut taxes without spending limits. And many liberals are seeing that more federal programs mean more dependency and debt for our children.
Divisive race and gender identity politics are becoming tired. A multiracial America in a strife-filled world works. So why copy the tribal separatism and divisions of the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda or most of the Middle East?
Because the United States is so huge, free, wealthy and dynamic, we can cause enormous problems overnight. But by the same token, we can curb these excesses quickly. The solution to so many of the hopeless headlines is entirely in our hands.
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