You've heard the definition of an optimist: Someone who lives with a pessimist. My husband of 57 years is the funniest man I know. He's smart, generous and empathic, but he is also a pessimist. And as is often the case with pessimists, he tends to get depressed.
If my nature is not naturally sunny and optimistic, it has become so over the years by virtue of love and commitment to a marriage. Actually, we make a pretty good couple. Pessimism has its place.
Depression, however, is bad stuff. It eats at the soul. If it gains the upper hand, life becomes meaningless. Today, the nation is in a state of depression. To pass it off as a recession only masks the problem. Recession means the rate of economic growth has ceased. It has slipped backward — receded — and all we need to do is get it started again.
It's not that easy. The nation itself is depressed. Its people are depressed. There is strong evidence that the market follows the mood of the people, not the other way around as you might suppose. I referred to this theory in a column last September.
Check it out: www.gainesvilletimes.com/archives/38047. My point is this: a nation of unhappy, stressed out, squabbling people does not make for a vibrant economy.
This is where politics comes in. Win or lose, politics is stressful. It is noisy and often mean-spirited, In a nation as divided the U.S. is today, it is our own worst enemy. Is there anything you or I can do about it?
Possibly, and the effort may make our lives better whatever happens to the economy. My first suggestion is to turn off talk radio. A number of people, including my husband, say they just listen for entertainment, but the kind of ranting and the anger one hears these days damages the nervous system no matter what one believes.
Sorry, it's my particular gripe.
It's the little things that eat away at our emotional well-being. Stuff breaks down. Deliveries are late. The price of gas goes up again. Car keys are misplaced. Someone sits on your glasses because you left them on the sofa. Your cousin subjects you to his particular political philosophy for the hundredth time and you want to tell him to stuff a sock in it, but you bite your tongue for the sake of the family.
In a time of war, the little inconveniences of life are multiplied many times over, but the public is bound together by national loyalty and the call of duty. When Great Britain was bombed during World War II, the government put up posters that read, "Keep Calm and Carry On." The people did. England prevailed, and Winston Churchill said it was their "finest hour."
Today, our world is being bombarded. I'm not talking about terrorist bombs, though those are real enough. We are bombarded by change at every level: Climate, culture, technology, economic structure — everything. Time and tolerance will see us through if we allow them, but that's not what the politicians and pundits are calling for.
"It's the fault of the liberals, the fault of the government, undocumented immigrants, greedy corporations, homosexuals, etc." they say. "Give us your money and your vote, and we will solve your problems for you."
Then look closer to home: At a community that's developing a neighborhood garden, a small-businessman who has started his own recycle service, local churches that collect food for those in need, people who volunteer their time and energy to care for children or the elderly. This is how things get better.
We‘re told don't trust government, but this is counterproductive. Every country, state or municipality needs some form of government. It is the people who make up the government who must be watched.
A little pessimism is fine, but seek the best. You may get it. Prepare for change. You might like it.
Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com.