Letterwerks Sign City
"Where Fillmore County News Comes First"
Online Edition
Wednesday, December 7th, 2016
Volume ∞ Issue ∞

The Good Lie

Fri, Aug 15th, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

There’s no getting around it: although the recession is technically over in America (although some European countries are sliding back in), things are still not going well for a lot of Americans. Add to our troubles at home the current hot stories like Ebola, Ukraine, the plight of the Yazidi in Iraq, the Islamic State terrorizing parts of the Middle East, and any other depressing tidbits you can find in a glance at the news, and it sometimes makes you wonder just what the heck is going on. And then, earlier last week we receive word that one of America’s most beloved funny-men seems to have died at his own hand, and there’s not only an elephant in the room, but a couple of gorillas and an angry looking hippo as well… and it’s getting hard to breathe in here.

So… how do you deal?

Luckily, Americans have developed something truly amazing to combat this big, old, crazy world we live in. Think about your standard stereotypes the world over: the French are morose, the Germans always angry, and Canadians blissfully unaware, smiling and waving as always. Americans have a reputation as stubborn and cocky in the rest of the world, that famous “Cowboy” stereotype, but it gives us an interesting look into a uniquely American phenomenon I like to call the Good Lie.

You see… sometimes things are terrible. Just terrible. No good jobs, the water’s been poisoned by runoff, the western states are on fire, and the Congress has a lower approval than head lice. Also, despite repeated pleas, Hardee’s will not bring back their fried chicken menu. Americans may well be aware that there are problems in the world, but we’re also the cockeyed optimists of the world. It wasn’t just bombs and guns and tanks that helped win World War II, it was also the spirit of the Americans that, even though things looked terrible, we can and will work together and make it happen. That skill is as invaluable to America’s success as it is sometimes a hindrance to our success, like in Iraq.

We have what I believe is a unique ability to hold two simultaneously contradictory positions in our own minds, and fully believe both. As far as national stereotypes go, being too stubborn to admit things are bad and working despite it all to make something good surely isn’t anything to be upset about. The American culture is the culture that can say yes, we hate our Congress more than root canals and used-car salesman, but we also believe our local Congressmen and women will help us. We are the culture that can know the lottery is an almost impossible gamble, but still pump millions of dollars into it every year. We are the country and the culture that can look at all of the evidence showing economic inequality hasn’t been this bad since the Roaring Twenties (which ended, by the way, with the Great Depression), but we still believe in our heart of hearts that, if we work hard enough, we can get to Romney-level wealth by the sweat of our brow.

It is this “evil twin” sort of mentality that makes America great and, as another election season is now upon us and the mud begins to fly, it is important to understand that even in our angriest and our most frustrated, as a country we’re still thinking tomorrow will be better. In a way, our anger is what shows that we want things to be better, and the anger would not exist if we weren’t also hoping for the bright side in what seems like a dark world right now. There’s been some talk lately about whether America is in some sort of decline, and it appears to me that it will only be in decline if we stop believing we can make it better. Yes, we know it’s bad, but we also know it’s good. It sounds like doublethink, but that sort of light-through-the-darkness thinking is what got this country to the top in the first place.

So, the next time you see someone down in the dumps or frustrated with the state of the world, don’t write them off as someone who just can’t be happy. Think of them as someone who might want to work to make things a little more happy not just for themselves, but for everyone. Because, if we can’t keep that Good Lie going, if we can’t tell ourselves that times are awful but we still believe things will get better… then we truly will be lost. If we let negativity without utility, anger without remedy take hold and just hate for the sake of hating and not for the purpose of eventually making something we can love... then we’re not doing what it takes to truly be American.

No Comments Yet. Be the first to comment!

Your comment submission is also an acknowledgement that this information may be reprinted in other formats such as the newspaper.