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The State of the Modern World

There are two fundamentally opposed views of the state of the world. On the one hand, some say it is good and getting better. Barack Obama's DNC speech espoused this view: while acknowledging imperfections, he pointed out that progress had been made, and asserted that by working together we can continue to make the world better. On the other hand, some hold that the world (or America) is in bad shape, and headed in the wrong direction. Various arguments can be made about the reality of how good or bad things are, and whether they are getting better or worse. In addition, various arguments can be made about the motivations or biases that lead people to adopt a more positive or negative perspective.


... I stand before you again tonight, after almost two terms as your President, to tell you I am even more optimistic about the future of America. How could I not be – after all we’ve achieved together? ...
By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started. ...
The America I know is full of courage, and optimism, and ingenuity. The America I know is decent and generous. Sure, we have real anxieties....
But as I’ve traveled this country, through all fifty states; as I’ve rejoiced with you and mourned with you, what I’ve also seen, more than anything, is what is right with America. ...
But I promise you, when we keep at it; when we change enough minds; when we deliver enough votes, then progress does happen. Just ask the twenty million more people who have health care today. ...
This year, in this election, I’m asking you to join me – to reject cynicism, reject fear, to summon what’s best in us; to elect Hillary Clinton as the next President of the United States, and show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation.
- Full text: President Obama's DNC speech (Remarks as prepared for delivery.), Politico Staff, July 27, 2016


Mr. Trump had recently told The Times that he was borrowing his model from Richard M. Nixon’s victorious run in 1968. “What Nixon understood is that when the world is falling apart, people want a strong leader whose highest priority is protecting America first,” he said. “The ’60s were bad, really bad. And it’s really bad now. Americans feel like it’s chaos again.” ...
The feeling that “the world is falling apart” is easy to come by. ...
Anxiety and alienation in a world that seems to have left many people behind is nothing new; it is, in fact, a hallmark of modernity. ...
It has been a leading Republican theme for more than five decades that only muscle and armor can repel all the barbarians — those at the gates and also within them. ... It’s no wonder that Mr. Trump is recycling the imagery of apocalypse and panic, to the point of fabrication....
To Mr. Trump and convention speakers like former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, it’s not morning in America, it’s a minute to midnight. ... In the manner of earlier authoritarians who sought to capitalize on widespread anxiety and resentment in order to justify the heavy hand, these Republicans proclaim that they are first responders ready to rescue us from disorder. The more intensely they can amplify the feeling of crisis, the more plausible they sound when they blame liberal slackness and ineptitude for disorder and promote the notion that Eden can be regained if only the leader is followed.
- Todd Gitlin, Not the ’60s: Apocalypse Then and Now, July 23, 2016


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