It was one of the commonplaces of our age to say
“No problem!” when responding to some obstacle
or difficulty that is placed in our way.
This is perhaps an iconic response in a time when
problems are inevitably and usually routinely
resolved through ingenuity, technology and, most
of all, the spirit that anything can be repaired or
I suggest, however, that we are now entering a new
problematic era when, although we still try to have
an irrepressible spirit of repair, our deeper sense
of what lies before us will be as daunting as it has
This is perhaps especially poignant in contemporary
American culture where “can do” and optimistic
attitudes have been an essential part of the American
public character since its republic was founded. In
fact, this quality existed even before those plucky
parents of the first modern democratic representative
government and its society were established.
It certainly was the spirited impulse which led the
nation’s founders to endure the hardships and
obstacles of the Revolutionary War years, and 150
years later, it galvanized a nation in economic
depression to endure acute unemployment and
poverty, and then unite to participate in and win a
After the collapse of the totalitarian Soviet Union and
the Cold War it provoked, the United States enjoyed
a relatively brief period of international dominance —
economic, cultural, technological and military. In
those recent years, everything seemed to be “no
problem” as we coasted through a period of
seemingly little conflict.
But the world we live in is always in a dynamic state
of change. Two nations with enormous populations,
China and India, took actions to replace generations
of economic suffering to assert their place in the
world. Only one of them chose democracy. Simmering
hot spots in Africa, South America, the Middle East
and Asia boiled over. The nations of the continent of
Europe, long in various conflicts with each other,
attempted to unite, but their efforts have stalled. The
core nation of the old Soviet Union has been unable
to transform itself into a modern democracy, and
has attempted to reconstruct its former empire by
A global pandemic sobered the belief that, in daily
life, anything was possible, and restrained much
that several recent generations simply took for
Deeply-imbued American traditions of free speech,
free elections, democratic institutions, advancement
by merit and self-reliance are now challenged by
political correctness and other radical theories which
are neither liberal nor conservative, but come from the
far left and far right — trying to make “No Problem!”
an empty phrase.
For more than 250 years, the American republic has
gradually re-made itself, discarding its flaws one by
one, in what has been a social and political journey
with no apparent final destination.
Although the world’s oldest continual democratic
republic, our tree of liberty — like the sequoia
redwood — might yet have a very long life span.
We don’t need to dominate the world — no nation
needs to do that — but we do need to continue to
inspire the world, something with all our past and
present flaws, we have done by not letting mere
problems and challenges take us down and out.
Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.