Keeping confidence in our Lady Liberty

Somehow it seems a perfect symbol for the summer of our discontent: Lady Liberty needs a $27 million facelift.

The statue, given to us by France and long a beacon of hope to those sailing to America, is in a state of disrepair. Just after her 125th birthday party on Oct. 28, she will be closed once again to the public for a year for refurbishing by her guardian, the National Park Service.

From the Missouri tornadoes to the West Coast fires to the terrible drought and heat to the sickening stock market gyrations to the fading hopes of millions for decent jobs to the debt ceiling debate to the angst over President Barack Obama’s leadership style to the jockeying among GOP hopefuls, this summer has been a bummer. Actually, this whole century is not going that well.

London is burning. France is broke. Italy is broke. Greece is broke. We’re broke. People are openly debating whether the United States has lost its mojo for good. Who can blame us for feeling demoralized? It’s time to remember what we have.

Yes, we have divided government that is stuck in the mud over what to do about our economy, but people on both sides are passionate because they love this country. Somehow we got through the Civil War, when a breakup of the union seemed at times to be inevitable. We’ll get through this.

Unlike Syrians, who are being killed on the streets by their government, we have the freedom to say what we think, to demonstrate in public, to pray as we wish, to vote, even to elect total dunces. Unlike the Somali people, we are not starving. We can move from state to state without being herded into refugee camps.

Unlike the Chinese, we are free to have as many children as we can afford or not have any. American gays and lesbians may live openly without being jailed. Unlike England, where the class you are born into or your accent may determine your whole life no matter what, the poorest Americans can become wealthy and the wealthiest may lose everything.

Even though it seems we’re stuck in the doldrums on research and development, scientists say research is moving so exponentially fast that this century’s progress will be equivalent to 20,000 years or 1000 times greater than the 20th century.

Even as we fear the rise of China’s economy, our economy is almost three times larger. Even though our home prices have fallen, home ownership is still a dream the majority of our families will realize. Even though college tuition costs a fortune, our higher education system is by far the best in the world. The important thing is to keep educating our children and pushing the standards higher.

After the Soviets launched Sputnik, we went into a national funk thinking we had lost the space race. Now we know enough about space travel to take a breather and reassess what we do next. We now know there is water on Mars!

We’re more environmentally conscious than we’ve ever been. True, corporations are sitting on $2.5 trillion in cash instead of investing it. But we’re in one of those strange periods in history where seismic shifts are starting to occur. Companies will invest again. Jobs will come back, but they will be different.

This is a dreadful summer in a bad year in a dreary decade. But confidence will return. And Lady Liberty, safer and more secure than ever, will be there for us to look up to and admire from near and far.

Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986.

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