I'm not sure what, exactly, would be considered times to try a man's soul (or a woman's soul, for that matter), or when we may be in them. I'd concede that, perusing newspapers or channel surfing, it seems at this moment we're sort of up against it. Inflation, stagflation, economic hard times, a malaise of the spirit that, especially for Americans, always seems so shocking.
I've had the good fortune to be able to live a lot of my life in other people's countries and cultures (I admit to not always regarding it as good fortune while I was doing it but hindsight, in addition to NOT being 20/20 also adds a rosy hue to remembrance, and that's not such a bad thing). I want to tread carefully and NOT introduce stereotypes as prototypes and models so let me just say, with apologies, to F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Americans are not like anyone else." and if Zelda has a problem with that, tell her and her entire generation to Get Lost (oh, wait! They did, didn't they?)
I used to tease German friends (okay, I have no friends, so they were acquaintances) that, as Cyndi Lauper sang about Girls in the late 70's, Americans just want to have fun. Even as we were telling George III, King of Great Britain to walk East until his crown floated by declaring our Independence, we couldn't resist insisting that we had been endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights, to include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Elvis Costello would be so proud and the other Elvis might have a fried banana and peanut butter sandwich in our honor.
In recent days, I've found myself humming an old Paul Simon song, "American Tune",
'I don't know a soul who's not been battered/
I don't have a friend who feels at ease/
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered/
Or driven to its knees.'
Simon, at the time he wrote those lines, like the rest of us was living in a pre 09/11/01 America, actually a USA of the Last Century when we were outspending 'The Communists' on weaponry and won because we went broke second-but they went bankrupt first.
As the Presidential election campaigns warm up and you hear the engines rave, we're going to be bombarded with unending litany of lament about how horrible so much is for so many in our country and how, by voting for, insert your candidate's name here, we can take back America.
That's as may be and all the other cliches, but here's another: it's always darkest before the dawn. And as Francis Scott Key noted, there are some amazing things to see by the dawn's early light.