I am an optimist

Really, I am an optimist.

Even if there are many things that outrage me about our contemporary world, on the whole I think that we have come a long way. I recently received one of those annoying chain emails from an older relative extolling the halcyon days of the 1950s, and as a result I was extraordinarily grateful to have not been alive in the 1950s.

Good news may not sell papers get clicks, but there truly is plenty of good news about the world and my little corner of it, here in the US of A.

That epidemic of rising teen births due to the break down of the family and cultural morals? Not only is it not an epidemic, both teen pregnancies and teen births are way, way down. Sure, we could improve further, but it isn't as if we don't know how.

The violent crime that terrifies my in-laws, to the point that they have installed cameras and alarms all over the suburban home? Also not really a thing, and generally falling instead of rising.

True, perhaps much of these benefits are mostly due to us not aggressively poisoning ourselves so much anymore, but that we are not as aggressively poisoning ourselves anymore is also good news. Even better news is that children born today are far less like to be filled with lead than children born in the recent past. They are far less likely to be born into an unstable home environment and less likely to be surrounded by violent crime. These are gifts that keep on giving to our society as those children grow into adulthood.

Even the bad news of today shows that we are advancing, even if painfully, to a world that grants basic dignity to a fuller measure of humanity.

The cluster in Ferguson is terrible, and the powers-that-be should be embarrassed and ashamed, but the kind of racist brutality involved was pretty much the standard operating procedure around most of the country in the lifetime of my still living grandmother. While I despair for attaining true justice in this case, the outrage may at least bring meaningful change to a few communities.

As college students return to campuses, scandalously high sexual assault rates have deservedly been in the news. As the father of college bound daughters I worry, but I also remember my own college days, not that long ago. It isn't like sexual assaults didn't happen back then, but I certainly don't remember the highest levels of government being concerned about that reality. And that isn't even considering the (lack of) higher educational and professional opportunities for Americans who happened to be female even back in the wonderful 50s.

Do problems remain? Yes, really huge problems remain. We certainly can all still manage to kill ourselves off, and we hurt one another more than we ought. Still, we are getting better.