Curing Apathy

A friend once asked me why I was so intent on making on America a better place. He explained that, according to his calculations, an American collapse was imminent and unavoidable, and he was simply, “along for the ride.” I was dumbfounded upon hearing this, and I began wondering how we each ended up at opposite sides of the spectrum. After that conversation, I quickly began to realize that my friend’s point of view was extremely popular among the majority of Americans. A lot of us, it seems, don’t really care about America one way or the other. We’re mostly just “along for the ride.” Naturally I started thinking of how I could rectify this problem of apathy for America. If only Americans cared about our country, we wouldn’t let it deteriorate so quickly. So what does it take for Americans to overcome this apathetic attitude and protect, defend, and better their country?

The most frustrating thing about apathy is that it is not typically defeated with logic. Most ills that face our country are a result of poor logic and uniformed citizens, but this is not necessarily the case with apathy. An apathetic person could be reasoned with all day long without any progress being made. There has to be something else to spur the apathetic person to change their attitude. The heart of the problem with apathy is that Americans don’t see their country as beautiful. It is human nature to preserve beauty, even if there is no direct benefit for those involved with preserving it. The cure for apathy, then, is simply to have all Americans view their nation as the most beautiful country in the history of the world. This is easier said than done, but it is certainly possible.

Edmond Burke claimed that, “To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely,” but this idea requires a caveat. In our society built on freedom, we will always have those who choose the greatest good, but we will also always have those who choose the greatest evil. Because Americans are free, any good we choose is the highest form of goodness since it was chosen with a free will. But this also applies to evil. As long as America remains free, we will harbor some of the world’s greatest forms of goodness, but also some of the worst forms of evil. We have to have some goodness in our country in order for it to be lovely and thus loved, but it essentially all comes down to perception. Americans have to see their country for the good that it does have and not obsess over its evils. How can Americans be changed to view their country as good and thus want to preserve it?

One possible solution that comes to mind is personified in many immigrants. People from other countries, often seeing how atrocious the rest of the world can be, are able to easily recognize the goodness that is America. Indian filmmaker and author Dinesh D’Souza frequently emphasizes this point. Coming to America as an exchange student in his teenage years, Dinesh had no respect for this country. His views quickly changed however, as he could clearly compare and contrast the two countries he had experienced. Similar to Dinesh, I recently met a Polish holocaust survivor who told me plainly, “Every person who wakes up in America should be down on their knees each morning thanking God for the opportunity to breathe the air of this country.” Unfortunately, it isn’t exactly possible for most Americans to see what life is like in other parts of the world. The immigrant perspective is not a viable solution to the problem of apathy for most Americans, but it does lend itself perfectly to a more reasonable and realistic solution.

One of the reasons that immigrants are able to see the goodness in America so easily is that there is almost a total lack of hardship here compared to the rest of the world. Americans live in stark contrast to most of the other people in the world, with even the poorest Americans being better off than most. If Americans could get a better idea of the hardships that plague the world, it would be much easier for us all to realize just how special our America is. Hardships also have another positive effect of uniting people. This is exactly what happened during the Great Depression and World War II. Americans quickly realized that their country was worth fighting for, and all were easily united throughout these tough years producing the greatest generation of Americans. Another Great Depression sounds harsh, but if that is what is necessary to cure the apathy in America, it is a very small price to pay. The only problem with this solution to apathy is that it is unsustainable. It isn’t a very healthy model to jump in a cycle of flirting with disaster by letting our country deteriorate to the brink of extinction in order to motivate Americans to care for our country. Again, this solution is helpful, but still misses the mark.

The only cure that can truly work against apathy is an extremely simple idea. The easiest way to enable Americans to see their country as a thing of beauty is with the tool of optimism. There is more goodness in America than in any country in the history of the world, and it only takes an optimist to see it. If Americans could simply be positive and optimistic about the goodness still alive in our country, the only logical thing to come next would be a great love of country. When Americans love our country and see it as beautiful, we will do anything necessary to defend, protect, and better it. This, then, is all it takes to save our country. Optimism is married to hope, and when we have hope, anything is possible. What reason do we have to be pessimistic? Why do we insist on focusing upon the evil in America and then become discouraged and apathetic? What does this attitude accomplish? Pessimism is married to inaction, and lack of action is what has permitted our country to fall so far. Simply be optimistic about America, and goodness will always triumph.

I fully understand that it can be extremely difficult to remain optimistic with evil so often triumphing in America, but we have to realize that we are not in this fight alone. Any person who fights for goodness has God on their side. With God, all things are possible. Nothing is hard or impossible for Him. As I have written before, God can reverse our fate at any instant He sees fit. Let us be a nation of optimists filled with hope for the future; let us love our country and cherish the goodness that is still so alive; and let us all win the approval of the God that has the power to bless America with His goodness. It is said that perception is reality, and that most certainly holds true in this case. Optimism is the easiest thing that any person, no matter how small, young, or unintelligent, can do to save America. Optimism, like pessimism, is absolutely contagious and spreads like wildfire. Perception is reality. The future is whatever we want it to be. Let us make it a good one by being optimistic.

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