Do you find it difficult to comprehend that millions of Americans have lost their jobs over the last two years? The number of people put out of work in one month alone during the nadir of the recession roughly equaled three times the entire population of Thurston County.
And if the statistical magnitude of our economic crisis doesn’t impress you, remember that each and every one of those people is suffering a personal and family tragedy.
Then think about the hundreds of thousands of people who may still lose their jobs or who can’t find meaningful employment. The latest unemployment numbers hover between 7 percent and 9 percent. The state is facing is worst-ever financial crisis.
We can’t forget those who lost their income, but not necessarily their jobs. Real estate agents and automotive sales people, for example, have been particularly hard hit. They only earn an income when people buy homes and cars, and fewer are doing so today.
The global economy is shrinking for the first time since World War II, causing subsequent financial disasters for countries like Greece, which then undermines whatever weak recovery was under way.
It’s clear this recession has run deeper than most people expected. And, yet, as bad as it is today, Americans have survived worse.
During the Great Depression, unemployment hit 24.9 percent, and never dropped below 16 percent between 1932 and 1936, staying in the teens until World War II. Add in a dust bowl created by the severe drought at the time, soup kitchens and long bread lines, and it starts to give us some perspective on current affairs.
Things have been worse in the world as well as America. The Dark Ages aren’t likely to make a return. We no longer force children to work full-time jobs in factories — at least in this country. The chances of a new Civil War seem slim. We’re making progress on civil rights.
New challenges have arisen, of course, because as people we collectively continue to fall short of perfection. But the quality of life in America has generally gotten better over time.
To most of the world, 92 percent of us still live a luxurious life, worrying about whether to cut some cable channels rather than where to find a scrap of food or a chunk of wood to burn for a fire to warm our family.
That doesn’t ease the pain of those among us who are struggling to keep their homes, or who have visited the food bank for the first time in their lives. That suffering is real and it’s right now.
But it will eventually pass. The economy will get better. New jobs will emerge that never existed before. Home values will stabilize.
Slowly, over time, America will get healthy again. The quality of life will continue to improve at home and abroad, as it has done throughout the history of man. Looking back at historical patterns tells us that it will.
But there’s an even more convincing reason to take an optimistic view of the future: the resilient human capacity for change. Mankind has continually adapted to many dynamic changes in the environment since before the time we had fire and lived in caves.
We are a resourceful and inventive species, and we will use our creativity and ingenuity to lift ourselves out of this current problem. We can do it because we have always done it.
George Le Masurier, publisher of The Olympian, can be reached at 360-357-0206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.