The End of Optimism

August 14

This is a tempting subject if ever there was one. American optimism! It has all the ingredients! A kernel of truth, lots of room to disagree, and no expertise of any sort required to weigh in. A grand canyon of a collective navel we can all gaze into! Oh, and I forgot to mention that even optimism has gotten politicized in the US, in addition to everything else!

I’ll argue it two ways, as I am transopinioned on this one.

On the one hand, it’s true we are out of sorts now, but we are always out of sorts about something. It’s just moreso now because oldsters are always grumpy, and we are demographically oldsterizing. Our eyesight isn’t what it was and there just appear to be more trespassers on our lawn lately. But gloom lowers and lifts in cycles, and we have a whole lot of psyche invested in calling ourselves optimistic, so expect it to stage a comeback, at least at campaign time.

On the other hand, you can’t help but want to occasionally say to America: grow up! Our optimism is and has been a very real thing, but come on, it has ridden on an extraordinary set of historical favorables. A giant, fertile, resource-rich continent there for the taking, and developing, and relatively isolated from efforts of others to take it away, (after we grabbed it, that is). Yes it is a blessed land, however you wish to define that, but it’s completely unusual in the world. Optimism is easy (ok easiER) when you are riding a rocket.

The self-congratulatory way we have talked about our optimism has been charming on the one hand, and naïve on the other. Maybe those are the same hand, come to think of it.

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog.
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Tom Toles · August 13