Joe Carter has posted a piece about the unwarranted pessimism that pervades our society today. I think his conclusion, "Americans don't need to fret about the economy (booming), the situation in Iraq (improving), or crime (falling). What they should be worried about is the outbreak of pessimism. That plague is reaching pandemic levels" misses the point a bit. His determination concerning the warrants of our pessimism is based on standard measures – the economy, the state of the Iraq war, and crime rates; and I agree, by those measures, we aren't doing nearly as bad as the current popular tenor would seem to indicate.
What I think drives the current pessimism though has little to do with those factors; instead, I think it has everything to do with the realization we all had on the morning of September 11th, 2001. We came to understand that day that even when the economy was booming, there are no apparent threats to our national security, and crime and poverty seemed to be fading, the very fabric of our national and personal confidence can be shredded by a small group of determined individuals who think that causing mass death is a legitimate means of political expression. We were hit again with the tenuous nature of our civic existence after Katrina smashed into our coast.
Our society still reels from those events, and like a parent who lost a child in a senseless act of violence, no amount of beneficent circumstance will relieve us of the gnawing concern that nothing is certain, that we are powerless to prevent the tragic from invading our lives at its leisure.
It calls for us not to be rooted in hopefulness about the latest military advance or economic forecast, but to anchor ourselves finally in something true and eternal; something our society seems to have lost its desire or wisdom to seek.