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There are many reasons to be discouraged over the condition of American society and the direction it seems headed. Despite many good things happening to us in the last half of the 20th century, we appear to be losing ground on many fronts: crime, drugs, violence, racism. Good manners, ordinary walking-around respect for others, begin to look like history.

We find ourselves - the richest, strongest, most successful nation in history - wallowing in these deplorable circumstances despite massive programs designed to prevent and cure social ills. Our government has enacted a forest of laws and spent our great-grandchildren into debt trying to solve the nation's problems - and hasn't made much headway.All we can do now is regret and deplore, pass another law, spend more money, make another speech, preach another sermon.

Wait a minute! Look what's happening at Parris Island, S.C., where the Marine Corps lifts young men and women from a self-centered, permissive society and performs amazing transformations. The Wall Street Journal sent a reporter to Parris Island to examine the miracle of the Marines. Would you believe the next paragraph, as reported by the WSJ?

"After 11 weeks, recruits emerge self-disciplined, with a serious bearing. They are drug-free, physically fit and courteous to their elders. They have overcome deep differences of class and race and learned to work and live as a team."

Exactly what most of us wish for all young people, and for ourselves. Eliminate drugs, practice self-discipline, end race and class divisions, bring back good manners, revive family values. Do that and many ominous threats disappear.