An idea sent me to my calculator.
The United States is 247 years old. I am 72 years old. Simple division revealed that I have lived in this country for 29.2 percent of its history as a nation.
Good grief! Hand me a cane and call me Methuselah! Another three years, if I am so blessed, and I’ll join the 30 percent crew.
In that span of time, my country has performed marvels. When I was 8, we kids used to break off playing to stare skyward at the tendrils of a new-fangled phenomenon: a jet plane. Ten years later, Americans were walking on the moon. When I was 10, segregation still held sway in the state and town where I lived. Six more years, and that system of oppression lay in the dustbin of history.
When I was 11, we came a hair’s breadth away from nuclear war with the Russians. Then I was 38, and the Berlin Wall came down, followed two years later by the collapse of the Soviet Union, an event I thought impossible in my lifetime. When I was 18, telephones plugged into a wall and had a single function: to talk to others. Now I’m 72, and my phone fits into my shirt pocket and brings the world to my fingertips.
It’s been a wild ride.
America was also a place where I could choose my destiny in life. For the last 40 years, I have been largely self-employed, operating a bed-and-breakfast and two bookshops for part of that time, teaching, and now writing. Success and failure were my responsibility, and though I failed just as often as I succeeded, I never felt like anybody’s victim.
That’s what individual liberty is all about.
And now it’s Thanksgiving.
This year, my children, grandchildren, a couple of friends, and I will gather for the traditional spread of turkey, stuffing, and all the fixings, including the lime green salad made from the recipe I inherited from my mom. On Wednesday night, my son and his family will host their “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” where they serve up jelly beans, toast, popcorn, and pretzels, supplemented by pizza. On Friday following Turkey Day, we’ll head to my youngest son’s house for a round of tacos and burritos.
If all goes according to customs past, before the big meal on Thursday, we’ll round up the raucous swarm of grandchildren, ranging in age from 3 months to 18 years (with one more expected at the arrivals gate in another month). Before saying grace, we’ll form a circle, hold hands, and express aloud what we’re grateful for. Given the recent epiphany regarding my age, I plan to keep it simple: “I’m grateful to be an American.”
For most of the 29.2 percent of the time I have spent living and breathing America’s history, no dictator controlled my life. No government told me what I could or could not study in college, what work I might do, or how many children my wife and I might raise. Like everyone else from Baby Boomers to Generation Alpha, I was and am a free human being.
In short, I am an American.
So to the holiday feast I’ll bring an attitude of gratitude.
This year, however, I’m also bringing defiance to this table, gratitude with an attitude. There are shadows over the country I love. There are Americans who fear liberty and the personal responsibilities it carries. There are others who loathe our country and its past, blinded to its blessings by ignorance or worse, by their Marxist beliefs in a government with them at the helm.
Nor will I forget that four years ago tyrannical “experts,” government bureaucrats, and politicians shut down our entire country on the pretext of a pandemic. Whatever the motives of these people, we now know that the COVID-19 masks, the lockdowns, the solitary deaths of loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes, the shuttered schools and churches, and the abuse of our basic rights as human beings destroyed the lives of millions of individuals and shook the foundations of our republic. Those who enacted these measures have never apologized or admitted wrongdoing.
To all these despots I also owe a debt of gratitude. They have wakened in me and in millions of other Americans a renewed love of liberty and of country. They have opened our eyes and given us the guts and heart to stand against their tyrannies, large and small. They are the best of all reminders that we must teach our children and grandchildren what it means to be the heirs of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abigail Adams, Abe Lincoln, Booker T. Washington, and of all those from our past who were proud to say, “I am an American.”
Happy Thanksgiving, all, and God bless America.
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