(Note: I wrote this for a class I took two years ago, and I think it still applies today. It isn't about any specific topic, but one can make parallels with many different kinds of issues. I edited it and added a bit of content for the purposes of this blog post. So, here it is.)
Do we have to be so cynical? There is a fine line between being critical and being cynical, and I think we're flailing our arms like a tightrope artist while we attempt to walk it. (Don't think I'm saying I'm never guilty of it, because at times I can be.)
But, if a foreigner who had never heard of our country came here and talked to certain members of our population, he or she could plausibly think we are the worst country ever to exist in the history of the world. Although we're not always in a place to discuss it, there are many great things about this country.
That being said, I am more than okay with criticizing our country where it needs to be criticized. As Robert F. Kennedy put it, "The sharpest criticism often goes hand in hand with the deepest idealism and love of country."
I think the most important words in Kennedy's quote are "idealism" and "love." I really do love my country; not necessarily for what it often is, but for my idealistic interpretation of what it can be. I don't think we should think we are better than other countries by default, but our nation has previously been a great and positive presence in the world, and I think we can be great again. To me, it takes a critical, not cynical, attitude to achieve greatness.
I really enjoyed this quote from Conan O'Brien's speech during his final episode of "Tonight Show" a couple years ago:
"All I ask of you, especially young people...is one thing. Please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism -- it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen."
I'll end by saying the following: don't let anybody tell you that our country is going down the tubes. This country has gone through so many changes in its short history, and guess what? We're still here. If we as individuals and as a country try our best, be positive, and be optimistic, I believe that we can and will accomplish great things.