"Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery."
Lyrics by Buck Owens & Roy Clark
From the TV show, "Hee Haw"
That song was part of a comedy skit, but we find little humor in a recent poll revealing rampant pessimism among Americans.
Separate stories in our Saturday and Sunday editions reported a gloomier future is predicted by a majority of poll respondents. And that despair exists on a number of fronts, including: government's ability to solve problems; runaway technology diminishing human initiative; and an erosion of morality and values.
The poll, conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found, overall, 54 percent of respondents foresee a decline in American life through 2050, compared to 23 percent who anticipate it will improve.
Regarding government, half of the respondents said our system of democracy requires either "a lot of changes" or a complete overhaul. Only one in 20 said it works well and needs no changes.
Fears regarding technology were reflected in a respondent's comment that "it's taking away our free choice and human thought. And there's potential for government to control and regulate what this artificial intelligence thinks."
Concerns about eroding values were articulated by a grandmother who said: "I worry about the lowering of morals and the corruption and the confusion that's just raining down on them (her grandchildren)."
Rampant pessisism may be understandable, but we positively dislike it.
Although we risk criticism that we are denying reality, we believe a negative outlook fails to account for human imagination and ingenuity.
Mankind has made remarkable strides. Medicine has entended life spans; technology has enhanced global communications, access to knowledge and personal convenience.
Advances invariably create new problems: Accommodating an aging population, identity theft, cyber-bullying, etc.
We believe education is the key to reversing negativism.
And we're not talking only about formal education, although that is certainly a vital component.
We're also talking about understanding - understanding the role of government in our lives, understanding other people's points of view, understanding what gives our lives meaning and purpose.
We believe negative trends can be reversed if - and this is a big if - we strive to improve ourselves and our surroundings.