Gloomy, dejected, defeated? Not this Republican. It’s Thanksgiving, and I have too much to be grateful for.
Yes, the Democrats took Congress, as well as electing a governor and gaining legislative seats in my state. Yes, the judicial term limits proposal I was chairing lost, and few ballot issues went as I hoped. And no, the Colorado GOP currently doesn’t have the “got’em where we want’em” defiance of John Elway’s old Broncos.
So why am I not down? Because before I am a Republican I’m a conservative, and I am an American before that. At bedrock, prior to anything, I am on a lifetime enlistment as a servant of my Maker and a soldier of the Cross, poor though my example may be.
Through such eyes, the blue wave and red rout of Nov. 7 have no more finality than a chess king tipped over at game’s end. We’ll vow to do better next time, of course – but with light hearts in the joy of a world too bright for any election to darken.
The common-sense recognition that politics isn’t everything happens to be a distinctively American trait, just as Thanksgiving is a distinctively American holiday. The day’s occurrence so soon after votes are counted is helpful in reminding us what really matters. While congratulations are due Colorado Gov.-elect Bill Ritter and all the other winners, along with condolences to Denver congressional candidate Rick O’Donnell and others who lost, this week is about giving thanks for the bigger picture.
We give thanks for constitutional government and democratic capitalism, the framework of liberty and law that has made these United States the freest, most prosperous, most open, most generous, most decent, and most powerful nation the world has ever seen. We hear the voice of conscience bidding Americans always use that power for good.
We give thanks for a stable, competitive, mutually respectful two-party system that forces consensus toward the center and fairly registers the people’s choice, so the trustees of power can be turned out when they lose touch or break faith – and the reins of authority can then be peacefully transferred. Much of the world lacks that.
We give thanks for the blessings of material abundance, opportunity, tolerance, innovation, cultural creativity, and the most optimistic educational system on earth, adding up to a magic escalator for group after group from marginal status to full participation in American life – minorities, women, immigrants, the disabled, who next? The striving of millions to come here isn’t just a policy problem, it’s an accolade to us.
We give thanks for living in the most religious nation in the world, a country where humanity’s restless search for God is unfettered by state-sponsored churches or compulsory worship, a country where much individual conduct is still regulated by the sense of moral obligation before an eternal Judge, allowing government’s hand to rest more lightly on our lives.
We give thanks for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. This daring, exuberant, risk-defying openness gives our system an almost miraculous capacity for self-criticism, self-correction, and self-renewal. This is what doomed slavery and defeated communism. It makes tyranny unlikely here. It is the jewel of humility in America’s crown.
We give thanks for our families. Parents and spouses, babies and elders, siblings and kids, eccentric uncles and cousins, grandparents and grandchildren, foster and adoptive relatives, those difficult in-laws, that couple who fits no conventional definition but just undeniably belongs together, the “stray” at your Thanksgiving table who doesn’t need to be blood to have a place in your heart – what would we do without them? Family transcends all politics, thank heaven.
But consider the last phrase. When “Oh thank heaven” can become a convenience-store slogan, America’s problem isn't theocracy, it's superficiality.. Too many of us bring only a Hallmark faith to Thursday’s national feast. The mere attitude of gratitude is not enough. As the turkey is carved, remember that thanks are meaningless unless given TO someone – in this case to the Creator of all things. “Our fathers’ God to Thee, Author of liberty, to Thee we sing.” From our house to yours, happy Thanksgiving.