a halting economy, and increased divisive-ness between religions and ethnic groups alone is enough to depress Pollyanna at an ice cream social.
In the past, we could hop into our cars and travel most anywhere when we grew tired our wretched lives. Now gasoline pushes $2 per gallon and SUVs get only 10 miles per gallon. Yikes, is my math correct? Thats only five miles traveled for every dollar spent - forget it.
If all else failed, moving to a desert island in order to cut off all communications with the outside world was an option. Then we discovered tsunamis.
My solution to this dilemma has been to turn off the TV coverage of depressing news and read. And surprisingly, I have found much to be optimistic about on our good planet.
There is now, for the first time in years, reason to be hopeful for peace between the Palestin-ians and Israel. Each of the three main parties to any such Middle East agreement has simultaneously moved to a more favorable political position. Some experts believe it can be done.
Hardliner Ariel Sharon is already planning on withdrawing Israeli troops from Gaza. Yasser Arafats death may provide the Palestinians leadership that the U.S. can finally deal with. Most importantly, President Bushs reelection will give him incentive to enhance his legacy by hammering out a peace accord that has eluded the Middle East for over 50 years.
Did you know that the war on drugs is being won - at least in the biggest supplier country to the United States? Colombias production of coca, the main component of cocaine, and poppies, the main ingredient for heroin, have gone down 30-40% in the last few years. Aided by the U.S., Colombia has cracked down more and more on drug shipments and the traffickers themselves.
Chinese women are gaining equal status with men and India has turned down foreign aid for tsunami destruction (they dont need it). Stories like these are the flipside to the painful outsourcing of American jobs. When former third-world countries lift themselves out of subsistent level life-styles, surely the world will be a more peaceful and better place.
Last month, thousands of NATO troops including Americans, left Bosnia after being deployed for nine years in a peacekeeping mission that has eliminated most of the fighting. After a peak of 60,000 troops, only 250 American soldiers now are stationed in Bosnia. The lesson of Bosnia is that multi-national forces can save lives and bring stability to war-torn countries.
Freedom House, a nonprofit organization promoting democracy, has concluded that the number of free countries in the world increased by over 200% in the last 30 years while the not free nations decreased by 77%. Even Saudi Arabia is having its first elections in over 40 years - though they are only for municipal councils.
This survey is not entirely rosy, though, as Russia was reclassified back into the not free category and Afghanistan and Iraqs democracies are fragile at best. Still, the quiet trend toward democracy in the world is jarring.
Lastly, I was heartened to see President Bush select former President Clinton as a point person for our countrys aid to the victims of the recent tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Maybe Bush will make good, yet, on his pledge to be a uniter, not a divider. Or then again, could there is something to the rumor that the two good ol boys just like each other?