The Prison of American Optimism

…watching the inauguration of President Trump with me were two friends…The former Chairman of a Conservative constituency association, and his wife- an Anglo- Irish women, an ardent Brexiter ( unlike her husband!) and huge fan of “The Donald.”

As the new President gave the speech the former conservative activist kept saying “He’s boxing himself in.” And  so he was with every additional promise. To put it at its mildest the new President was doing nothing to lower expectations of his followers. Rather he was increasing them- as did President Obama in 2008- “Yes we can!” But could we? Should we?

Why is this? Why do American politicians feel obliged to speak in these terms. Why are they so imprisoned by optimism that realism sounds like treachery? Why do they do so little to inject even a hint of the difficulties that are inherent in the political process and even the human condition itself into their discourse? It is, I think,  because The United States is a young country based on the facile hopes of the enlightenment. Is it cynical to ask if  the real promise of America will only be discovered when this compulsory optimism ( which can never be realized on this earth ) has been replaced by a more soundly based rhetoric? “Blood, sweat and tears” is more like it!…Or am I denying people hope, as one of my friends said as I read them the draft of this.

 

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