When I was a kid in the 1970s, one of my parents’ favorite entertainers was the comedian Jerry Clower.

Clower, with a folksy nature and deep Southern drawl, mostly told clean, homespun jokes about growing up in rural Mississippi. For example, one story focused on an older woman he knew as Aunt Penny, whose optimism drove people to near madness.

“I don’t care what happened,” Clower related, “she’d always say, ‘It could be worse’” — whether it was the milk cow dying or the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor.

One day, Clower said, he and his brother tried to trick her. They told Aunt Penny her husband, Uncle Jesse, wasn’t coming home because the Devil had snatched him and “toted him off.” “It coulda been a lot worse,” Aunt Penny replied, to which they asked how. She answered, “The Devil coulda made poor, ol’ Jesse tote him.”

We need that kind of optimism now. Because of politics, so many simply refuse to look for the bright side, much less see it.

Take soccer player Megan Rapinoe. Fresh off helping the women’s national soccer team win the World Cup, Rapinoe continued to rip soccer authorities about “equal pay” relative to the U.S. men’s team, although she’s made enough for kicking a ball to be a 1-percenter. Rapinoe, who is also a lesbian and has kneeled during the National Anthem in solidarity with former NFL quarteback Colin Kaepernick, ripped President Donald Trump for being “exclusive” and said she wouldn’t go to the “f------ White House” after winning the Cup — and then in the next breath said she had no interest in talking to anyone who disagrees with her, presumably on gay rights, soccer player salaries or the aesthetics of purple-tinted hair.

Speaking of Kaepernick, we now know how he single-handedly killed off Nike’s new “Betsy Ross” shoe, claiming the flag depicted on the shoe was racist and emblematic of slavery. It’s worth pointing out that the First Continental Congress, which drew delegates from 12 of the 13 colonies, banned the importation and sale of slaves in 1774 — at least two years before Ross sewed the famous flag. Kaepernick then proceeded to quote out of context a speech by 19th century abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who once said “What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? This Fourth of July is yours, not mine.” Kaepernick is so oppressed that, for throwing a football, he made upward of $40 million before his NFL career fizzled over the flag controversy and inking that Nike contract last year. Like Rapinoe, he also enjoys widespread adulation from lefties.

Speaking of the Fourth of July, The New York Times posted a video on its website declaring that the “myth of America as the greatest nation on earth is at best outdated and at worst, wildly inaccurate.” It is “a narrative packed and sold to tiny patriots,” the Times added, arguing that America is “really just O.K.” It’s interesting that the Times has complained before and since about how the Trump administration treats the endless stream of people from Mexico seeking to enter the country illegally — all of whom presumably believe America is way better than “just O.K.,” as do the 1 million immigrants, most of whom come from nonwhite parts of the world, who become U.S. citizens each year.

Speaking of myths, Beto O’Rourke, the soon-to-be has-been in the Democratic presidential primary, is telling interviewers America was founded on “white supremacy.” Worse, O’Rourke says, “Every single institution and structure that we have in this country still reflects the legacy of slavery and segregation and Jim Crow and suppression.” Every single one, including the government that, between 2009 and 2017, was led by a black man who had many top advisers who were black? U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez maintains we’re running “concentration camps” on the border, even though she refused to tour the facilities. Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders complain about income inequality and that the system is rigged for the rich — even though both are millionaires. Black Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris complain that, to O’Rourke’s point, “mass incarceration” in the prison system has unfairly targeted black Amercians — even though they won’t explain how these people are innocent and as they want to undo criminal justice measures that helped America reach record-low crime rates.

Listen to liberals in politics, sports, and pop culture and their media acolytes for very long and you might be tempted to think America is a rotten place. Ignore them. The simple fact that they refuse to leave for someplace else tells you all you need to know about their hypocrisy.

Of course, if Democrats win next year, I’ll have to disagree with Aunt Penny. It can get a lot worse.

Bill Thompson (bill.thompson@theledger.com) is the editorial page editor of The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida.