It's true that on this Fourth of July America looks like the heroine tied to the railroad tracks with the train hurtling toward her in an old Western film.
The COVID-19 virus, racial unrest, the opioid epidemic, protests, the cancel culture, and no baseball, for goodness sake. And that doesn't even touch on politics.
But what's so bad about the United States of America is also what's so good. In no other country of the world can people be confident that what we're worried about now — and there is plenty to worry about — eventually will evolve into something even more promising for its inhabitants and the world.
After all, that's been this country's history.
Just in the last century, for instance:
— World War I and the Spanish flu gave way to the Roaring 20s, a decade of economic prosperity that also saw dramatic social and cultural changes.
— The Great Depression gave way to experimental New Deal policies that, while some would later seem wrong-headed and overreaching, nevertheless brought electricity to much of the country that didn't have it and gave it a Social Security system that was to be at least a retirement stopgap for the working poor.
— The New Deal never returned prosperity to the country, but it gave way to World War II, which both revived American industry for the war effort and gave citizens a cause over which to unite.
— World War II gave way to unprecedented growth, innovation and comfort for a great majority of its citizens.
— That comfort, though, gave way to a civil rights era in which the descendants of the slaves freed nearly 100 years before sought to be more completely included in the country's growth and prosperity and from which they often had been wrongly and deliberately held back.
— The divisive Vietnam war, protests of it and of racial injustices, and the Watergate political scandal eventually gave way to a three-decades-long era of relative peace, innovation and progress for all Americans.
— Wars following the 9/11 terrorists attacks, war weariness and a housing-sparked, long recession eventually gave way to strong economic growth and record unemployment for minority workers.
In March, that strong economic growth and record unemployment came to an end with the spread of a virus the world is still trying to understand, deal with and, ultimately, tame. And, as with so many crises in years past, the United States is leading efforts to curtail it.
Earlier this week, Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump administration is "hopeful that even before the end of this year we will have a vaccine available for the American people."
If successful, Project Warp Speed — which includes producing vaccines that look positive and testing them along the way — will have completed a project no one thought could have been done in so short a time.
Just under 70 years ago, U.S. doctors and scientists similarly developed a vaccine for polio, which, for all intents and purposes, has been wiped from the face of the earth.
In the last 50 years, Americans have been responsible for, just to name 10 innovations, the personal computer, the iPhone, the human genome map, WiFi, 3D printing, digital cameras, MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging), UPCs (bar codes), email and putting a man on the moon (which actually occurred in 1969).
Yet, 50 years ago, in 1970, and in the years just before it and just after it, parents despaired of their teenagers and young adults protesting, hurling curses at police, looting, burning and rioting. It's never been so bad, people said. Where will it all end? people wondered.
Fortunately, the protest part of that unrest is one of the country's hallmarks. If we don't like the way things are being run, we can say something, write something, carry signs and sign petitions. If enough of us do it, we believe, the powers that be will take notice.
In some other countries, doing any of those things could get us jailed, deported, maimed or executed.
Today, parents may be saying some of the same things about their teenagers and young adults. Where did we go wrong? When will it all end?
Those questions won't be answered quickly or easily just as the country won't return to a better normal quickly or easily. It may be 2025 before the country finds its footing again socially and economically. But it will because as a people we've always found a way to make that happen.
While the gloomsayers and doomsayers appear to have the upper hand right now, we think back over the past 50 years and remember how often some people remarked that the country was at it lowest, that it despaired for the next generation, that this president or that president would lead us into ruination, that our best days were behind us.
But somehow we rose, the economy came back, innovations blossomed and peace reigned. On this Fourth of July eve, we like the odds of that happening here again better than we would in any other country on the planet.