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Many of us feel like the world is unraveling. Is it?
By Jim Kempton
In this time of political uncertainty, there is a sense that everything—our society, our political system, our country—is falling apart. Before we buy into that notion though, we should look at the facts. I know it is a really unfashionable thing to do these days. But just humor me for a moment. It might make us all feel a little better. The question, which has been posed in every election since Ronald Reagan first asked it, is: Are we better off than we were?
The answer is, thankfully, we are. This is not romantic, wishful thinking. This is a simple review of the facts.
Take immigration—many people say there is a new giant wave of Latinos pouring over our border. But compared to 15 years ago, the trend has, in reality, reversed. The number of immigrants from our southern border is actually shrinking. We’re losing undocumented residents.
Thanks to 24-hour television coverage, many fear a massive crime wave sweeping the nation. But over the last decade, violent crime across the nation continues to decrease. Although this year crime was up a small percent in some areas, it has been going down continually and significantly for the last 20 years. Overall, crime is at a 30-year low.
How about international stability? There is the perception that the world is an exploding powder keg. The reality: war-torn nations on four continents are finally making peace. In Europe, multinational full-scale war in Serbia (which threatened the peace of the continent) is quiet. Only a decade or two ago, Latin America claimed extensive internal warfare in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Today, none of these conflicts are active. Rwanda, Tunisia, Ireland and Spain have (at least temporarily) curbed their violence.
Wars across the globe have nearly ceased outside of a small section of geography in the Middle East. And even there, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now only include a few thousand American troops down from hundreds of thousands who saw combat and 2.5 million in all who were sent to the conflict.
There is more good news. Life expectancy for all Americans is at an all-time high. Quality of life for black Americans is on the rise. Employment is below 2006 levels. Cancer is down. Illegitimate births have dropped significantly. For the four years between 2009 and April 2013, there were no Islamic terrorist attacks at all. In 2008, our nation went through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression more than 85 years ago. Since then, General Motors has paid back their government loan with billions in interest and the economy has gone from losing 800,000 jobs a month to steadily putting a few hundred thousand back in. The stock market is enjoying a steadily robust and continuous climb past 2008’s crash.
Not all is rosy, of course. Dragons of crisis lurk, inevitably. Nonetheless, things are better. It may be early, but come Thanksgiving, we should count our blessings and not fall for the siren calls of fear. Chicken Little may think the sky is falling. But look around—the world really is a better place.
Jim Kempton is a writer, surfer and optimist who believes we live in the best possible world. And then worries that he might be right.