I've spent a lot of time worrying about my country lately. Or, really, the time has spent me. I feel sad, and physically ill, just thinking of how lost we've become, how the pandemic has hurt us so badly, how avoidable all this misery is.

I have these intrusive thoughts, about how we will see a many-year dip in marriages because it's so hard to build real intimacy right now. If you're in a relationship, it can continue, but if not...

I can't help but obsess about how I was actually in one of the few countries where this was handled with appropriate seriousness, and was asked to return by my government.

And I've cut out even the most meticulous and well thought out news sources, because I just can't handle it right now. No more news. Someone will tell me important things, I hope. I used to be well informed and brought people excellent guesses (like the massive safety advantages of re-opening the economy outdoors, which I was talking about in April). And now, if there is new insight to be had, they'll just have to navigate without me.

And I've been building my optimism again. It's not easy, or obvious. But I've been thinking about Charter Cities, how we can all have exactly what we want instead of fighting so much. I've been thinking about AI and the far future, and how we might get there. I've been thinking about niceness and community and what I can do to help.

Every year I think about The Declaration of Independence. About how everyone is created equal and endowed with life, liberty, and the attempt at finding happiness. About how it's not obvious, it's complicated. It was the first time anyone wrote it down, but it was self-evident. That no matter how tricky it is to find, you only need to look at a person, and see their dignity, understand it's important and they are just like you. It might not be obvious, how miraculous all of this is, but you need no second source. That's what it means to be self-evident.

And even in this time of trouble, far worse than even the virus could bring by itself, I'm reminded that, even if we aren't at our best. Even if civilization needs repair work, if niceness and honesty and cooperation need rehabilitation, they will never be foreign to us. Our dignity demands that of us, even if we don't measure up all the time. That's what it means for our rights to be inalienable. If we lose them, if we lose civilization, if we lose what makes America special, it's okay. It'll come back home, because it will never be an alien to this strange and great place.

Our mistakes have never defined us. Everyone makes mistakes. Our vision, of what a society could be, that's what ignited the world. And in this time, it might feel like a flickering candle, where we are just barely shielding it from the wind –

(what happens if our noted anti-vax president inspires so many people to avoid a vaccine that America never recovers from this? The human misery that's so broad it's hard to capture, and there's no end in sight... I can't keep the thoughts out sometimes)

– but candles can be re-lit. We can remember, and learn for the first time from others. The things that are wonderful in this world will always be self-recommending, no matter how much we lose our way.