Keep the pessimism in check
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Bill Barth
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   Let’s run through the litany of all the terrible things weighing down on people.
   Start with two wars. Even in the rosiest assessments, troops will be in Iraq for years. Afghanistan watched the Brits and the Soviets break against the mountainous terrain and ungovernable population. Will America be next? And then there’s Pakistan. Unstable, nuclear Pakistan. The government is corrupt, Osama bin Laden is hiding out with impunity, the Taliban has regrouped, anti-Americanism is rampant.
   At home, the economy is nothing short of awful. Here where I live, in the heartland of the industrial Midwest, the unemployment rate is 18.1 percent — up from 15.4 percent the previous month.
   Many of America’s biggest brand-name companies are virtually insolvent. The only thing propping up some banks and automakers is taxpayer generosity. The ability to sell a house or buy a car is mostly memory.
   State governments from California to Illinois to New York are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. The only solution seems to be digging deeper into citizens’ pockets for higher taxes.
   Federal bailouts of banks and automakers, along with the stimulus plan, contribute to deficits with more “ohs” than a donut factory. The cap-and-trade energy plan, estimates suggest, may add $800 billion in taxes over 10 years. Proposals for health care reform may cost a trillion dollars over the same period.
   And Michael Jackson is dead.
   Enough bad news and pessimism for awhile?
   Now the good news.
   Just over 230 years ago people on this continent decided this land was worth dying for, so they decided to take on the most powerful empire in the world. We are their heirs.
   That means we have inherited — as an unearned gift from our forbears — a country where it is our birthright to live as we wish, aspire to great heights, worship (or not) as our hearts dictate, speak our minds to power, bow to no man, and enjoy the highest standard of living on the planet.
   Our cities are wonders of human creation. Our agricultural land produces a bounty of immense proportions. Our institutions of higher learning lead the world in research and grand discoveries. Our medical system is the most advanced in the world. Our free enterprise system has extended comfort to the majority of the people.
   For generation after generation, America has kept the promise for our children to do even better than their parents. When President Obama speaks of the “audacity of hope,” he captures the spirit that has propelled America to become the pre-eminent power of the world and a beacon of freedom to suffering people everywhere.
   So, yes, the problems of the moment are daunting — but not incapacitating. Look to history as a guide. This nation was born of hardship, sacrifice and determination. It carried America through the Revolution, the Civil War, two World Wars, multiple economic shudders and so much more.
   That’s because the real strength of America is in its people. Their resilience and belief in tomorrow is a powerful weapon against whatever comes our way.
   This weekend America marks its Independence Day, properly set aside to remember how we got here and the debt owed to those who came before us. I suggest one way to partially re-pay that debt is to keep the negative stuff and pessimism in check. The challenges of the moment will fade away. The goodness and freedom of America is, we all pray, forever.