12-09-2019  7:54 am   •   PDX Weather    •   SEA weather  
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NORTHWEST NEWS

Black Food Professionals See Opportunities to “Scale Up” in School Cafeterias and on Store Shelves

Two Portland women are addressing disparities in the local food scene with Ethiopian and Haitian flavors, ingredients

Portland Fire Chief Sara Boone Climbing Historic Ladders

In 1995, Boone was the first African American woman hired by Portland Fire & Rescue; this year she became its first African American Chief

Christmas Tree Shopping is Harder Than Ever, Thanks to Climate Change and Demographics

For Christmas tree farms to survive, shoppers will need to be more flexible

November Holiday Travel at PDX Brings More Comfort, Convenience and Furry Friends

If you’ve not been to Portland International Airport in a few months, you’re in for some surprises.

NEWS BRIEFS

Conservation Breakthrough for Endangered Butterfly

The Oregon Zoo's breeding success provides new hope in an effort to save Oregon silverspots ...

Meet 80 Local Authors at OHS 52nd Holiday Cheer Book Sale and Signing

This free Oregon Historical Society event will be held this Sunday, December 8 from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. ...

Need for Blood Doesn’t Stop for Holidays – Donors Needed

Those who come to give through Dec. 18 will receive a Amazon.com Gift Card ...

North Carolina Court Decision Upholds Removal of Confederate Monument

Lawyers argued that the monument was installed at the end of Reconstruction to further the false “Lost Cause” narrative,...

Artist Talk with 13-year-old Local to be Held This Tuesday, Nov. 26

Hobbs Waters will be discussing his solo exhibit “Thirteen” at The Armory in Portland ...

Accidental shootings by police expose training shortfalls

SEATTLE (AP) — When an Iowa mother tried to take her child from her husband during an argument on a snowy sidewalk in 2015, an officer stepped in to stop the scuffle, but he accidentally fired his weapon as a dog approached. The bullet went through the woman’s arm and into her chest,...

Accidental shootings raise questions about arming teachers

SEATTLE (AP) — As the country looks for ways to deal with mass shootings at schools, some have responded by saying more people should carry guns, including teachers.“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” President Donald Trump told the National...

AP Source: Mizzou hiring Appalachian State's Eli Drinkwitz

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri reached an agreement Sunday with Eliah Drinkwitz to take over the Tigers' once-proud football program, a person with knowledge of the hiring told The Associated Press, making Appalachian State's successful coach the second-youngest in a Power Five...

Missouri fires football coach Barry Odom after 4 seasons

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri fired football coach Barry Odom on Saturday, ending the four-year stay of a respected former player who took over a program in disarray but could never get the Tigers over the hump in the brutal SEC.The Tigers finished 6-6 and 3-5 in the conference after...

OPINION

Will You Answer the Call for Moral Revival?

In embracing and expanding the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Revs. Barber and Theoharis have asked Presidential candidates to consider a debate that focuses exclusively on poverty ...

What I’m Thankful For This Season

Ray Curry gives thanks for a human right that shaped our country throughout the 20th century and that made Thanksgiving possible for so many Americans who, like him, didn’t get here by way of the Mayflower ...

Congressional Black Caucus Members Visit U.S.-Mexico Border: “Mistreatment of Black Immigrants is Another ‘Stain on America’”

Members said they witnessed first-hand the deplorable treatment and plight of Black immigrants ...

Portland, I'm Ready

Last month I had the privilege to stand with hundreds of supporters and announce my intention to run for re-election ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Black church believed to be oldest in US finishes repairs

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A 160-year-old church believed to be the oldest black church in the United States and built by enslaved Africans has been restored to a version of its former glory.A fresh coat of paint covers the freshly carpeted First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia, which...

Nevada third to vote, still up for grabs for 2020 Democrats

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada won its coveted early date in the presidential primary because it was supposed to offer Democrats something different.It’s more racially diverse than the two states that weigh in earlier, Iowa and New Hampshire. Its population is young, working class, largely...

China claims everyone in Xinjiang camps has 'graduated'

BEIJING (AP) — People who were at vocational training centers in China's far west Xinjiang have all ”graduated" and are living happy lives, an official said Monday. But Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities from the region say their family members continue to be...

ENTERTAINMENT

Singer performs in Vegas for 1st time after mass shooting

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Country singer Jason Aldean has performed in Las Vegas for the first time since he was on stage at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival at the beginning of the Oct. 1, 2017 mass shooting.The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Aldean told a packed house at Park MGM’s...

'Frozen 2' leads box office again; 'Playmobil' flops

NEW YORK (AP) — “Frozen 2” blanketed multiplexes for the third straight weekend, continuing its reign at No. 1 with .7 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday. The Walt Disney Co. animated sequel has already grossed 9.7 million worldwide. It will...

‘Benson,’ ‘Star Trek’ actor René Auberjonois has died at 79

LOS ANGELES (AP) — René Auberjonois, a prolific actor best known for his roles on the television shows “Benson” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and his part in the 1970 film “M.A.S.H.” playing Father Mulcahy, has died. He was 79. The actor died...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

US Catholic priests beset by overwork, isolation, scandals

CHICOPEE, Mass. (AP) — More than a century ago, waves of Catholic immigrants from Ireland, Poland and...

North Korea calls Trump 'erratic' old man over tweets

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea insulted U.S. President Donald Trump again on Monday, calling him a...

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker has died

Paul Volcker, who as Federal Reserve chairman in the early 1980s elevated interest rates to historic highs and...

Female minister, 34, tapped to become Finland's youngest PM

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — A 34-year-old transport minister and lawmaker has been tapped to become Finland's...

North Korea calls Trump 'erratic' old man over tweets

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea insulted U.S. President Donald Trump again on Monday, calling him a...

N. Korea believed to test new rocket engine to provoke US

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A day after North Korea said it had performed a “very important...

McMenamins
Ted Anthony AP National Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Before the towers crumbled, before the doomed people jumped and the smoke billowed and the planes hit, the collective American memory summoned one fleeting fragment of beauty: a clear blue sky.

So many of those who remember that day invoke that detail. Last week, New York magazine, which has been running a 9/11 "encyclopedia" ahead of the 10th anniversary, added an entry for "Blue: What everyone would remember first." It chronicled nearly a dozen of the ways that Americans recalling 9/11 anchor their looks back with a reminiscence of blue sky.

No coincidence that the power of such an image endures. Blue sky is a canvas of possibility, and optimistic notions of better tomorrows - futures that deliver endless promise - are fundamental to the American tradition. In the United States, to "blue-sky" something can mean visionary, fanciful thinking unbound by the weedy entanglements of the moment. Off we go into the wild blue yonder.

But the years since 9/11 have dealt a gut punch to four centuries of American optimism. A volley of cataclysmic events - two far-off wars, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath and, for the past four years, serious economic downturn - has worn down the national psyche. It's easy to ask: Is optimism, one of the defining pillars of the American character, on the wane?

"Some of the really big challenges we are facing are really starting to sink in with people," says Jason Seacat, who teaches about the psychology of optimism and hope at Western New England University. "You talk about that can-do spirit that used to exist, and it still can exist. But what I get a lot of is, `This is such a huge problem, and there's really nothing I can do about it.'"

Welcome to the rest of the human race, some might say. Europeans, who can enjoy their fatalism, have been known to poke fun at American optimism. And why not? You could argue that the virus of optimism was spread to this continent by supplicants beguiled by the vision of a land that promised brighter futures - presuming you left the Old World to pursue them.

Since the 1600s, when one of America's first Puritan leaders cast the society that would become the United States as a "shining city upon a hill," the notion that one can will a better future into existence has been a central thread of the American story. The Declaration of Independence enshrined as national mythology not happiness itself, but the pursuit of it - the chasing of a dream alongside life and liberty as the ultimate expression of self-definition.

It took root. This became the nation where getting bigger and better was a right granted by God, where the Optimists Club was founded and "The Power of Positive Thinking" became a bestseller, where you could bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun. "Finish each day and be done with it," American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson exhorted. "Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."

Old nonsense, alas, has a way of loitering around and gumming up the works.

Last year, as we began a new decade, a Gallup poll found that 34 percent of Americans were pessimistic about the country's future - the highest number at the start of a decade since the 1980s began. Numbers from Gallup's Economic Confidence Index late last month were the lowest since March 2009. Most tellingly, perhaps, a majority of Americans - 55 percent - said this year they found it unlikely that today's youth will have better lives than their parents.

More anecdotally, when was the last time that popular culture produced a strong vision of an optimistic American future? We got those all the time in the mid-20th century, era of the World's Fair "Futurama" and promises of jet-packing your way to the office in the morning. But the Jetsonian view of tomorrow has become quaint, and today forlorn narratives like "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," the zombie apocalypse drama "The Walking Dead" and Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" dominate the American futurescape.

In the weeks directly after 9/11, optimism seemed on the rise for a time. The trumpet had summoned us again, and some people expressed a renewed sense of purpose. A high-stakes seriousness settled in. We spun tales of freshly minted heroes, gave blood, held benefits, told each other that hey, don't worry, things will get better. A national coming together and the accompanying resoluteness were, it seemed, feeding hope.

"In an odd way, for all its tragedy, 9/11 reinvigorated the sources of American optimism at a very particular time," says Peter J. Kastor, a historian at Washington University in St. Louis. "The problem now is recapturing that."

Today, politicians struggle to project the all-important optimistic outlook that will help them win elections and govern a cranky citizenry. Yet optimism is a must-have narrative for any politician looking to lead. And the most effective among them - the Roosevelts, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan - have built their images around optimism. "Morning in America," Reagan called it.

Political consultant Bob Shrum, who wrote Ted Kennedy's famous and optimistic speech at the 1980 Democratic National Convention ("The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die"), says successful politicians deploy optimism as a tool to "expand America's vision of itself." The ones who endure, he says, "are people who help define and enlarge the American spirit."

The "Audacity of Hope" president used the meme Thursday night in his jobs speech to Congress after cataloguing employment problems and putting forward his solutions. "We are tougher than the times that we live in, and we are bigger than our politics have been," Barack Obama said. "So let's meet the moment. Let's get to work, and let's show the world once again why the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth."

Not everyone finds salvation in positive thinking. The cultural critic Barbara Ehrenreich wrote an entire book in 2009 on the country's excessive optimism. In "Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America," she assessed it this way: "Positivity is not so much our condition or our mood as it is part of our ideology - the way we explain the world and think we ought to function within it."

Ehrenreich identified an important point: There is a big difference between unfettered hope and the American brand of optimism. Hope, she asserts, is an emotion; optimism is "a cognitive stance, a conscious expectation."

And what, after all, is more American than a conscious, supremely confident expectation that things will turn out OK? That if we visualize the future, and are simply American enough as we forge forward, bright tomorrows will happen.

That may be the central challenge for American optimism at the dawn of the second decade after 9/11: figuring out how much of the dream should be about the clear blue sky, and how much should be about wrestling with the problems that percolate beneath it. A balance, in effect, between the promise of our tomorrows and the reality of our todays.

It's not like the future is going anywhere, though. It's been our comforting companion for too long, and blue-sky dreams have a way of clawing to the top of any American story. Even after 9/11 and the uneasy decade that followed it tested the optimism of so many, that's the thing about tomorrow: No matter what, it's still always a day away.

---

EDITOR'S NOTE - Ted Anthony, assistant managing editor for The Associated Press, writes frequently about American culture. He covered the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001-2003. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/anthonyted

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