Don't Look on the Bright Side: Pessimism, Not Magical Thinking, Is What Will Save Us
Continued from previous page
But you can't admit any of that. In public, we never let such darkness prevail. Instead, we work to improve things. We organize, rally, blog, join movements, work phone banks, ring doorbells, write checks, sign petitions.
We are not a tragic nation. If a leader disappoints us, or breaks our hearts, we say it's just a setback, not a sign that the system itself manufactures impotence and capitulation. If a problem festers, we cling to the belief that money, know-how and perhaps some sobering wake-up call are all we need to solve it; we don't dare entertain the notion that there's something in human nature that's causing and protracting it. If social conflict splits us, we diagnose a communication problem, a semantic setback on the road to common ground, a gap that can be bridged by consensus on facts and deliberation on goals; it's just too painful to think that tribal values impervious to rationality and insusceptible to compromise are the ineluctable driver of our divisions.
I wish I could declare my confidence in our ability to solve our problems without sounding like some candidate who just wants my vote. But ironic optimism won't do. I'm desperate for evidence that we're prepared to pay for the services we demand, or to subordinate our desires in order to meet our obligations to one another, or to reform our governance so that special interest money, filibusters and the other Washington diseases didn't sicken the system. I just wish it didn't take drinking the can-do Kool Aid to see the glass as half full.