In between your July 4 barbecues and pool parties, the fireworks and the family fun, at some point over the holiday weekend I know you'll take a minute to reflect on the state of our nation.
And with all the recent news, it will be hard not to sigh a bit. From the tragic Charleston shooting to the riots in Baltimore and Ferguson, from bitter fights over health care and gay marriage to our renewed involvement in a war in the Middle East, from widening income inequality to a broken immigration system, it seems like a lot's going wrong in this divided nation.
It may look bleak -- and everything feels worse during a presidential election when every candidate is telling you how dire things are -- but keep your chin up. America's still the greatest place on Earth, and here's why:
"Veep." Considering there are countries in which satirizing or criticizing the government is punishable by prison or even death, it's pretty great that we have scores of television shows -- many of them fantastically fun and smart -- that do just that. From "Veep" and "House of Cards" to "Scandal" and "Homeland," we have plenty of opportunities to revel in the absurdities and failures of our country's elected leaders.
Cats. Imagine a world in which no one has compiled and alerted you to the best cat-in-costume videos, or curated a nearly perfect list of "Awkward Moments You Have During the Apocalypse," or provided a roadmap for "Which Fictional Dragon You Should Make Sweet, Tender Love To." You just imagined a world without BuzzFeed, and I'd really rather not live there, thank you very much.
Getting places. We have mastered the art of getting places. For anyone sitting on LA's 405 or the Long Island Expressway, we definitely haven't mastered the art of getting places quickly, but thanks to Uber our cities are becoming more efficient. In places like Saudi Arabia I wouldn't be allowed to drive. Here in America, I don't have to, which is definitely an upgrade.
Binging. Whether it's on Taco Bell's "Grilled Stuft Nacho" or "Seinfeld" episodes coming to Hulu, Americans can binge to their hearts' content. Sure, this comes with certain risks such as ulcers, obesity, atrophy and couch dents, but when your Saturday is spent with a bucket of wings and 12 hours of "Breaking Bad," life is pretty darn good.
Manners. Whether you think the Confederate flag is a symbol of Southern pride or not, it's hard to argue it hasn't been an incredibly divisive symbol for many others. And just recently a Republican Southern governor called for its removal from state house grounds. Retailers have stopped selling the flag. Even NASCAR, where Southern pride is requisite, has banned it. Oftentimes political correctness is a meaningless reaction to manufactured outrage. But in this case, it's just about being polite.
Paying more. If you've ever been to a Whole Foods supermarket, you know their food is delicious -- and outrageously expensive. But plenty of families live with the high prices because "buying organic" has become synonymous with "being a good person," and Americans have a delightful penchant for believing without any evidence that if it costs more it must be better. Well, this week Whole Foods apologized after a New York City investigation revealed several stores had been overcharging customers by as much as $0.80 to nearly $15 on prepackaged items sold by weight. Suckers.
Family rivalries. Since 1964, the country's favorite quiz show, "Jeopardy!" has sown the best kind of discord in families watching at home. Husband contends against wife, and sister against brother, to see who knows more about the Peloponnesian War or composers by country. In addition to challenging kids and grownups alike to study their films of the '40s and world capitals, it also affirms that there is no way you would be as awkward as that contestant was just now telling Alex about his figurine collection.
So, as you can clearly see, we're still the greatest nation on Earth. We might not feel like we're winning right now, with everything that's going on at home and overseas. But I've got a great cat video to cheer you up.