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At 232, a New Day?

So, America turned 232 this past weekend. Unfortunately, it seems like lots of people aren’t feeling too good about the state of the nation. Polls indicate people are feeling bad about the direction America seems headed in. I think when kids studying U.S. political history look at our era, they’re going to be reading something about low national morale. Or at least, they should, because this feeling of low, which I think has passed beyond partisan lines.

And why not? Jobs are disappearing, the price of gas is skyrocketing towards European levels, food costs more both because grains cost more and because it costs more to ship it from place to place, and the government keeps listening to your conversations. This to say nothing of a never-ending war in Iraq, and a never-ending war on drugs at home. We’re not doing so hot in either. Morning in America, frankly, it’s not.

But we shouldn’t despair just yet, I think. I’ll admit, I’m curious. Despite all the hubbub about liberals being divided, and the fierce partisan divide, I wonder if we’re not, as a nation, slowly coming together. I wonder if I’ll get to see a wide-scale demonstration of American civic spirit. It’s a much talked-up phenomenon which I feel like I see on a small scale from time to time, but a main marker of my political growing-up has been disdain for the lack of civic interest—people simply seemed to discard the good of others if it interfered with good for them. This happens a lot in history, but when you’re born into “Morning in America,” it’s especially noticeable. Anyway, I feel a rumbling underground that we’re slowly getting there, that maybe America will react to this low by coming together for the common good.

And I hate to sound preachy here, but I do feel like liberal political philosophy encourages that. It’s a good moment for liberal causes when people come together to help one another through bad times—not issues like gay marriage, but more fundamentally populist ones, ones that actively value everyday people, like education, small-business support, national health and health care, etc. So I’m ready for a big swing to my side of the field. I learned most of my early we’re-all-responsible-for-each-other lessons from women, Jewish and otherwise, and my most recent love affairs with communal bettering have been via Jewish organizations that recognize we’re part of a larger community—not just an American community, but a global one.

I, for one, am ready to be a better neighbor. What do you think?

–Mel Weiss