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October 10, 2011 / Sandy Asher



Daily reports in print, on television, and over the Internet make it easy to conclude that the United States is going to hell in a handbasket.  The economy is in tatters.  Race relations remain strained despite the election of the first African-American president.  Sexual escapades flood the media.  Public schools perform poorly, and turn out incompetent students.   Communication technology has morphed into a Frankenstein monster.  And if all that weren’t enough – and there is more! — deep flaws have developed in our national character.  Our culture reflects a lack of good taste.  Intellectual pursuits are viewed with suspicion and resentment.  Shallowness and selfishness dominate the sentiments and beliefs of the majority.  The government is broken.

Critics on both the Left and Right consider ours the worst of times in American history. These modern-day Cassandras and Nostradamuses lay doom-laden bets on the when of America’s demise. They describe a funeral procession already underway, although the soon-to-be-deceased (America as we knew it) remains unaware of its imminent burial.

Had enough?

 America: The Owners’ Manual shows how apocalyptic scenarios simplify complex situations. They’re meant to alarm, convince, and convert, not to illuminate. American life is not a binary affair; notions of America the Blighted or America the Beautiful do little to help us understand America the Real. 

The many problems besieging the United States today need to be evaluated in the broader and longer contexts out of which the American experience evolved.  Doing less makes it impossible to tell whether present difficulties are new, or simply warmed-over versions of the same old, same old.  Most of the time, the latter is true, giving us evidence that we’ve survived before and we’ll bounce back again.

America: The Owner’s Manual is all about perspective.  That’s the tool needed to understand the broad contours of American history, aspects of the past that have shaped the present and can guide us through the present and into the future.  Only perspective can allow us to distinguish what is real and true, reduce our unfounded fears, and help us move forward with confidence.

America: The Owner’s Manual addresses major developments in economics, politics, foreign policy, and cultural and social issues that have significantly shaped contemporary America. It does so without bias toward the left or the right.  Examples come from a wide variety of sources, both academic and popular, to create a full picture of how Americans have lived and dealt with trying situations over time.

This blog is meant to serve at least two audiences.  One is adults who care about what’s happening to the country and are feeling anxiety and confusion about it.  The second includes teachers of high school through college classes, who may use it to supplement coursework in modern American history, historiography, and contemporary issues.

Moderation might be considered a tough sell in a market driven by cuteness and sensationalism, but moderation is the unique, pervading quality of this blog.  Its moderate conclusions will please neither conservatives nor liberals whose work focuses on polarization. Likewise, its conclusions will disappoint those who see a United States forever basking in sunlight. The no-nonsense, golden mean approach of America:  The Owner’s Manual  is so NOT radical, it stands a good chance of becoming the new norm for people tired of endless shock and awe.  


The Author


After receiving his doctorate from Indiana University, Harvey Asher taught a variety of courses in history and interdisciplinary studies for thirty-five years at Drury University, a liberal arts school in Springfield, Missouri. His articles on themes in Russian history, American history, and the Holocaust have appeared in the Russian Review, Kritika, the Journal of Genocide Research, the Russian Dictionary, the SHARF Newsletter, Federalism in America: An Encyclopedia, and Lessons and Legacies of the Holocaust. He is also the author of The Drury Story Continues, an informal but thorough history of the school.


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  1. Joan Carris / Oct 19 2011 3:30 pm

    Great opener, Harvey! (Hi, Sandy!) I put it on my Facebook page, hoping something positive and constructive might go viral for a change. I wish you all the viewership and thinkership of the SIMON THE CAT videos that always bring joy and comfort. Joan Carris

    • Harvey Asher / Oct 19 2011 4:51 pm

      Thank you so much for your support, Joan. Much appreciated by H & S both!

  2. Mimi Shapiro / Oct 20 2011 2:26 pm

    Great idea ! and I totally agree with you ! the 24 hour news cycle ! needs to feed the beast ! and glad to be signed up ! Go Harvey and tell it like it is !!

    • Harvey Asher / Oct 20 2011 2:37 pm

      Thank you, Mimi. Be sure you’ve signed up, though. See the sidebar at the top of the page to subscribe. Then you’ll get an email with each new post. H & S

  3. Yuri / Oct 20 2011 6:06 pm

    I loved your opener, Harvey – now I can’t wait to read the next installment!

    • Harvey Asher / Oct 20 2011 11:06 pm

      Thank you, Yuri. I look forward to getting it to you!

  4. Maxim Matusevich / Oct 20 2011 7:25 pm

    Harvey, thanks for reducing my anxiety level. Alina and I have been considering moving to Taiwan (or Finland) but now I feel reassured!

  5. Harvey Asher / Oct 20 2011 11:08 pm

    Less anxiety is always good, Max. Besides, we need you here.

  6. Bruce Callen / Oct 21 2011 2:12 am

    Look forward to hearing more about ‘America the Real’. Thanks, Harvey!

    • Harvey Asher / Oct 21 2011 2:51 pm

      Nice to hear from you, Bruce. Appreciate your signing up!


  7. Tom Russo / Oct 21 2011 8:53 am

    Hi Harvey,
    Moderation…hmmm. Now that might be something try (though the ancient Greeks had a tough time with it)! I’m in London at the moment and heading to St. Paul’s to see what the “Occupy” protesters are actually on about…though they seem to have many voices, I suspect “moderation” is is common theme amongst them. Really looking forward to you future posts.
    All the best you and Sandy.

    • Harvey Asher / Oct 21 2011 2:53 pm

      Hello, Tom. Glad to hear you’re back in London. True enough about the ancient Greeks, but at least in theory, Aristotle and others were advocates of moderation. I’ve been to the Occupy Wall Street gathering in NYC. I’d describe them as moderates seeking a path to meaningful action.


  8. Sean Terry / Oct 23 2011 7:03 pm

    I am glad to see this project, and look forward to your entries. I just hope our gain isn’t Krispy Kreme’s loss, as they are still looking for a few good men to deliver their real american product!


  9. Harvey Asher / Oct 24 2011 1:24 am

    Sean —

    Thanks for stopping by. Hope you sign up!


  10. Kelley / Oct 24 2011 7:12 pm

    Hi, Harvey–this will be so much fun. I’ve missed a connection with you. Best, Kelley

  11. Harvey Asher / Oct 24 2011 11:03 pm

    Hope so, Kelley. This is a good way to stay connected.


  12. Meryl Baer / Oct 28 2011 5:26 pm

    Good luck and you are off to a great start. I signed up for future postings and cannot wait for your insightful analysis and conclusions. Greetings to you and Sandy from the shore!

    • Harvey Asher / Oct 28 2011 11:30 pm

      Thank you for your encouragement, Meryl. I hope I can deliver the goods!


  13. Gary Nelms / Oct 29 2011 3:38 pm

    Extremely well written introduction Harvey. I hope you can sell me. I am tending to see only the darkness of our present situation. Gary Nelms

    • Harvey Asher / Oct 29 2011 7:47 pm

      Thank you, Gary. I have a good editor.

      Let’s look again, together.


  14. Barbara Seuling / Nov 13 2011 3:26 pm

    Go, Harvey, go! Good to hear there is hope in this mess we’ve made.
    Look forward to more….


    • Harvey Asher / Nov 13 2011 9:04 pm

      Thanks, Barbara. Great to hear from you. Keep the faith!


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