Politics & Policy

A Modest Suggestion: Perhaps Things Aren’t That Bad

President Trump greets supporters at the White House in September. (Reuters photo: Joshua Roberts)
You wouldn’t know it to read the hysterical coverage of 2017, but Americans have a lot to be thankful for.

As the cacophony of 2017 winds down to a close, I’d like to float an idea: Perhaps things aren’t all that bad.

I can feel the blend of outrage and indignation surging as I type. Sow the wind, as the old saying goes, and ye shall reap the whirlwind. In this wildly contentious year, there might be nothing more controversial than suggesting that things aren’t all that bad. Just ask the chipper pop star Taylor Swift, who faced an avalanche of Internet teeth-gnashing when she dared to say something cheerful (and apolitical!) on her birthday. “I couldn’t have asked for a better year, all thanks to you,” she declared to her fans on Instagram. “Can’t wait to see what 28 will be like.”

How dare she? As New York magazine huffily put it: “A Straight, White, Multimillionaire Pop Star Had a Great 2017.” Swift, the article continued, must surely be alone in her enjoyment of 2017. Does she not know about the impending changes to the tax code? Does she not know that the world is still beset by war, crime, and a wide range of distressing natural disasters? Does she not know that Donald Trump is president?

While this is all quite silly, I actually find it rather charming. It reminds me of that one mopey kid found in almost every college dorm in America, the one who refuses to go to parties because he needs to sit under his loft bed and dwell upon the fact that injustice still reigns in various corners of the Earth. He might not actually try to do anything about said injustices, but man, he can brood with the best of them.

“Reality has been pretty hard to handle—and impossible to escape—this past year,” opens a recent piece at Mother Jones, which is nicely titled “10 Albums to Help You Heal from the Trauma of 2017,” and may well have been written by that sad-sack kid from your dorm. “But sometimes we just need a break, a pause to refresh the spirit for the challenges ahead, or to remind us that this too shall pass, however dire things may seem. In that spirit, and in no particular order, here are 10 albums released in 2017 that might not solve our problems but are sure to make existence a tad more bearable.”

Ah, existence in America in 2017! How can we ever bear it? Since we’re talking about reality — a reality that is reportedly “hard to handle” and “impossible to escape” — here’s a little dose of it: We live in a nation that is so embarrassingly prosperous someone may actually have been paid to write that paragraph. What a time to be alive!  

Let’s forget our overflowing grocery stores, technological miracles, medical advancements, and the general prosperity we often take for granted. Setting the cheerful heresy of Taylor Swift aside, a majority consensus seems latent among today’s media and cultural elite: Everything is terrible, all the time. Since Donald Trump’s inauguration day, many pundits and reporters seem permanently and stubbornly jammed into one of three gears: quiet despair, mild panic, or borderline-reckless hyperbole.

While the world is not perfect, and never will be, we live in a wildly prosperous nation with unprecedented political freedoms.

Remember net neutrality? It seems like eons ago, but last week, the end of this relatively new regulation (it was formed in June of 2015) was greeted with hysteria, predictions of general web-based doom, and panicked declarations that we were witnessing the “end of the Internet as we know it.” Lo and behold, the deed has been done, and here we are, still easily downloading songs to ease our trauma!

Perhaps things aren’t really all that bad.

Then there’s the GOP tax bill, which, according to the left-leaning Tax Policy Center, will give 80.4 percent of Americans a tax cut in 2018 — with the average cut estimated at a whopping $2,140. Well, never mind. The bill will literally kill countless Americans, we are told. Nancy Pelosi calls it “the worst bill to ever come to the floor of the House.” According to a new Monmouth poll, half of Americans think their tax burden will go up under the bill, likely thanks to hysterical media coverage. They’ll be in for a pleasant surprise come April.

Perhaps things aren’t really all that bad. 

Then there’s Donald Trump. Whether you like him or not, he has certainly failed to live up to the dramatic and dire predictions accompanying his presidency thus far, while managing a number of successes, including tax reform, a windfall of conservative judges, and significant regulatory cuts. Mass chaos, martial law, and the predicted dramatic stock-market crash have not yet arrived, despite the implications of often-feverish news coverage.

Well, there’s always next year — in life, bad times can come at a moment’s notice. (In fact, Murphy’s Law suggests a Russian-led coup or a hostile and terrifying space-alien invasion will arrive the moment this column is published.) But until then, here’s the truth: While the world is not perfect, and never will be, we live in a wildly prosperous nation with unprecedented political freedoms. We have much to be thankful for. More importantly, not everything in life is about politics. The sooner we recognize that, the better 2018 will be.


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Heather Wilhelm is a columnist for National Review. Her work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, RealClearPolitics, the Washington Examiner, Commentary magazine, the Dallas Morning News, the Miami Herald, and the Kansas City Star


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