You’ll read a lot of Thanksgiving essays today that have a rueful or cynical edge. For my part, I will have none of that. This is a day of gratitude for what we have, not anger or despair over what we have lost. On this day, all glasses are not merely half-full, but overflowing.
I’m thankful that I live in a free nation that views elections as passages in an argument, not the final resolution of disputes. For this reason, even my most dire short-term concerns have never overwhelmed my long-term confidence in America.
Along similar lines, I’m grateful that our reverence for liberty means that we do not presume to settle the discourses of our children. They will be free to ask the questions that consume us today, and perhaps find different, better answers. I wish we weren’t placing such terrible burdens on them. I wonder if they’ll look back on us with gratitude, or resentment. But I look forward to them, and anticipate their attack upon the problems we were never able to solve.
I’m thankful for the young people we have today. Some are callow, thoughtless, and irresponsible, just as some have always been. But you won’t find any callow youth coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m always shocked to read the story of a fallen hero and realize that I can remember what I was doing on the day he was born. As with every veteran who does not return home in body, I am saddened by their loss, but grateful that they lived… and grateful that I live in a nation that welcomes all of them home in spirit.
I also give thanks to the elders who went before me, for all they have built and achieved. I am thankful for their stewardship of the great inheritance every generation of Americans passes on. We live surrounded by wonders that exist thanks to the vision of our fathers and grandfathers. We enjoy freedom that exists only because of their fierce determination to protect it. There are places in the world where fathers and mothers have very little to pass along to their sons and daughters. In America, we build ever higher, ever faster, ever stronger, rather than scrabbling to draw subsistence from a wasteland. The passage of history raises us up, instead of grinding us down.
I live in awe and gratitude of America’s boundless charity, within her borders and around the world. No demand of government has smothered our voluntary compassion. No crisis at home has so consumed us that we cannot hear desperate cries from distant shores. The beating of this nation’s warm and generous heart is still easy to feel.
I’m thankful to live in the nation people flee to. I wish our government officially valued citizenship more highly, but I have no doubt it remains equally precious to both people who were born with it, and those who earned it just days ago. Look for anyplace in the world where peace and freedom blossom, and you will find an American hand tilling the soil.
I’m glad I live in a nation founded by those who made a serious attempt to riddle out God’s wishes for how he wanted his children to live, and wrote the sort of laws they thought he might have written. I’m glad they did such a good job that people of any faith, or no faith at all, appreciate the product of their industry centuries later. There is an old saying that even if you don’t believe in God, he believes in you. We live upon a Constitution written by men who believed in us, even though they could scarcely imagine the world we live in. It is a document radiant with every species of faith.
Faith is what Thanksgiving is all about. It was not a dinner held by colonists who could scarcely believe they had survived to sit at the table, or doubted their right to take a place. They celebrated the robust vindication of their faith, not its fragile endurance. They looked forward to the future and honored the past. Today we take our seats at the table they set long ago, and share their anticipation for all that is yet to come.
And if none of that sounds good to you, I give thanks for living in a time when you could read it just hours after I wrote it, and register your objections as soon as they crossed your mind.