We tend to look back nostalgically at the good old days and assume things were rosier then. But what good old days? The ’50s, when nuclear war threatened? The ’40s, when World War II happened? The ’30s, with the Great Depression?
And yet the country has rocked along, growing, on the whole and over time, more prosperous, healthier, and safer. These blessings are not inevitable. Think of other countries where riots can turn into revolutions, where women and minorities are oppressed, where there is no equality before the law—just whatever protection your tribe or local strongman can offer.
The United States has highly functioning governments that provide services and security and a court system that metes out justice. Maybe we shouldn’t just take it for granted that the government check is in the mail, that your sons and daughters cannot be drafted, that the police cannot barge in without a search warrant, that you can sue your neighbors, and that all those talking heads—and you on the Internet—can say almost anything you want, thanks to the First Amendment. Maybe we should be grateful.