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Dean Mattis Quoted: Is this the end of American optimism?

SASN Dean Jacqueline Mattis is quoted in this article on

Facing a seemingly endless pandemic and an election that has little hope of going smoothly, we’re all on a grim, existential roller coaster now.

In times of crisis, cultures have often turned to religion and spirituality.

It’s hard to remember now, but 2020 — a year, a meme, an interminable parade of grief — opened with a sense of cautious optimism. US unemployment was at a record low and consumer confidence was high. Hollywood had just invested almost $2 billion in a “revolutionary” new streaming platform called Quibi; Future and Drake’s new single “Life is Good” was charting; and Tokyo was ready to host the summer Olympics. Even for those still feeling wary of the future, an impending US presidential election presented an opportunity for political change.

But the coronavirus pandemic has quickly turned the world inside out, intersecting with a laundry list of other anxiety-inducing developments, including accelerating climate change and a record-scorching California wildfire season; police brutality exemplified by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others; and growing fears of voter suppression or intimidation in the run-up to an election that, many argue, will shape American democracy itself.

This spring, unemployment reached a record high, and for many, government relief quickly ran out. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in September concluded “an era of faith in the courts,” according to the Atlantic. To top it all off, we still don’t have any clue when — or if — the pandemic will end. Even if there is a vaccine, a growing number of Americans, wary of the rapid pace of development, say they will refuse to be innoculated.

As people try to endure their unwilling ride on this grim existential rollercoaster, optimism — the belief that somehow, everything will turn out okay — is on the wane.

"In times of crisis, cultures have often turned to religion and spirituality. Jacqueline Mattis, a psychologist at Rutgers, researches the role of religion in the lives of African Americans. In Black liberation theology, she says, faith is grounded in 'real issues like freedom and what it means to care and forgive in the real world.' Adherents acknowledge oppression, while actively working against it, maintaining not just optimism, but hope, which Mattis defines as 'optimism with a plan.'”