People keep talking about the decline of America. And I don't know what they're on about, honestly.
There's this political narrative, that I can't help but notice, and it's on both sides of the aisle. "America," they state, "is going down the tubes. And it is ENTIRELY the other side's fault!" Both sides do this.
Every day, when I go outside, I look around for evidence of decline. I see the sun shining (because I am in Sacramento, where the weather fails to exist), and see that people are mostly pretty happy (especially if you smile at them; I do that a LOT, because I am adorable), and everything just seems to work pretty well. People complain about stuff, sure, but that's literally human nature. It's our sense of being unsatisfied which drives all of our endeavors to improve ourselves, our community, and our world, so it's not really surprising that people are unsatisfied all the time.
Countries in decline do not, for example, successfully land a HUGE, epic, landmark expedition to Mars.
They don't win absurd piles of Olympic Medals.
Countries in decline don't have Good Eats marathons.
Countries in decline have armed military in the streets.
Let me go check.
Nope, still nothing weird out there. Just a couple of hipsters riding on fixed gear cruising bicycles. Ironically, no doubt.
And it's not like I haven't sampled quite a lot of the country, right? I've lived in Florida, New York, Connecticut, South Carolina, Maryland, Georgia, Vermont, and now California, so I've seen lots of different models of American Society. In each and every one, I never saw anything that indicated "the downward spiral of the country" or "the decline of American civilization."
Violent crime has steadily declined over the last 40 years. Racism is now limited to very small pockets of weirdos. Homosexuals are becoming accepted as just, you know, people (and not weirdos; racist people are now the weirdos). Smoking is not cool anymore, which is probably going to save lives. Recycling didn't even EXIST outside of communes until just a little while ago, and now we recycle the heck out of all kinds of stuff.
I can type words and numbers into this very computer, and a short while later a man wearing a hat with only primary colors will bring me a finely cooked pizza pie. I will have to go to all the effort of standing, and then taking six steps to my front door, and then I will have to sign something. (As an aside: Pfft. Eff that. Might as well just slave away for sixteen hours in the hot oven uphill both ways in the snow, or something.)
What I'm saying is, America is really steadily improving, and we enjoy pretty much the highest standard of living of any society in the history of the world.
I carry a thing in my pocket that allows me to instantly speak with anyone I know anywhere on the planet, and then take pictures of where ever I happen to be standing at the time, and then find the answer to any question I can think of by accessing an invisible network where we have stored all of human knowledge in a language I happen to speak fluently.
What I'm not seeing is some cataclysmic, crashing, awful end of society out there. It's just... not like that.
Syria is a country in decline.
A good friend of mine is Syrian, and her brother teaches art at University there, and most of her family lives there, including her sister. She mentioned about 8 weeks ago that her sister was coming to the US.
I said, brightly, "Oh, really? How long is she going to be visiting?"
My friend looked at me for a second, and said, "Well... we don't know yet."