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Published December 31 2012

Forum editorial: Go with optimism and hope

The routine on New Year’s Day is to look back on the previous months with analytical insights, and to look ahead to the coming year with hope and promise.

Both are tough calls this New Year’s Day 2013.

It’s difficult to make sense of 2012. The human condition, whether in the United States or around the globe is, frankly, a mess. Europe is an economic nightmare that could spread its gloom to the U.S. if Europeans do not get their financial house in order. The Middle East and Africa remain hideous places of religious, political and tribal violence so horrific as to test the imagination. There seem to be more millions starving and more millions of refugees than ever before.

Closer to home, the allegedly best form of government on the planet can’t reach a compromise to fix the nation’s fiscal woes, or come up with rational gun policy, or reach a political consensus on the science of climate change. Division and bitterness in government – a reflection of the same factors among the people – seem deeper and more destructive than at any time since the Civil War.

No hope?

Not so fast.

If nothing else, Americans tend to be a hopeful lot, even in the face of what they might view as dark times. And let’s be honest here: Compared to other parts of the world, the U.S. is in pretty good shape, thank you. Despite the gnashing of teeth and hand-wringing about the economy, politics and all manner of real and overblown problems, Americans always find a way. Despite the pessimists and doomsayers among us, the national character is foundationally optimistic.

As a perennial work in progress, the U.S. makes mistakes, some big ones (policies that led to the 1930s Depression, the Vietnam War, the second Iraq war on a credit card, big bank deregulation). But we know how to change course, to correct mistakes, to learn from them. The lessons can be hard, the damage consequential but not fatal.

Hope and optimism are endemic to the American spirit. Even when the nation seems dispirited – when polls show most believe the nation is going in the wrong direction – Americans summon the vitality, creativity and will to change direction, whether via elections, social movements, productive economic innovations or all of the above.

It’s who we are, what we do. As 2013 dawns, we’ll go with optimism and hope.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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