Thanks, America

John Andrews
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Posted: Nov 24, 2008 12:00 AM
Thanks, America

We are the grateful Americans. We counted our blessings today, some of us in church or in prayer, some on the job or war patrol or a golf course, even some hospitalized or serving time, others just at home with the paper. Or we tried to; the list is long.

Sure, we have our share of troubles, some obvious and others carried secretly. But we don’t take today for granted. Remembering those who will never see another sunrise, who gave or lost or wore out their lives to make ours possible, we live in the attitude of gratitude. To us it’s an obligation.

We are the grateful Americans. We’re not showy about it; that’s not our way. We’ll dive in on the three F’s of Thanksgiving Day, family, feasting, and football, with the best of them. But the meaning of this season of thanks will be on our minds. The only “made in America” sacred day of the year won’t be lost on us.

Yes, we know. The country is hurting economically right now. Almost half the voters are still getting over their election loss, and the other half are impatient with them. The premise of Thanksgiving itself, recognition of God, has many a doubter nowadays. Won’t the thankfulness feel a little forced this year?

Actually, to the grateful Americans, it won’t. We recall the pauper who could smile though he had no shoes – for he knew a man who had no feet. The unimaginably affluent Uncle Sam is hardly barefoot, recession or not. Our resilience and resourcefulness that made the last boom will make the next one. Till then, our communal concern will relieve the hardest-hit. Our Pilgrim heritage is self-reliance and mutual help, not self-pity and blame.

Nor can political disagreements and disappointments make us unthankful. Our good fortune to live in a republic by consent of the governed is a treasure. Here ballots not bullets pick winners. Here the defeated have recourse to persuasion, not violence. Imagine life under the Chinese or Cuban or Saudi despots. Congratulations, Barack, say grateful Americans of both parties.

As for the tradition of dedicating an autumn Thursday to honor the Creator in our increasingly secularist culture, look at it this way: Many still revere Him according to the faith of their fathers. Growing numbers are equally devout, but outside the Judeo-Christian tradition. Others simply want to access gratitude’s awesome power as humanists. But all can join this week in saying, “Thanks, America.”

America deserves our gratitude for the liberty and justice, dignity and opportunity, prosperity and advancement, liberation and participation it has extended to more people from more places across more centuries than any other nation in human history.

America deserves our gratitude for the beauty and bounty of its land, the wisdom and goodness of its constitution, the decency and openness of its institutions, the nobility and generosity of its role in the world, the toughness of its idealism – and, yes, agrees this Republican, for the audacity of its hope.

America deserves our gratitude for the forgiveness in families, the neighborliness on your block, the caring of teachers, the cop who risked his life for you last night, the amputee home from Iraq – and for the self-correction that flares if these are betrayed or neglected.

When my house thanks America for such riches, we’re really thanking the God who we believe bestowed them and still stands “within the shadows keeping watch,” as a Civil War hymn says. Your house may be no less heartfelt in their thanks while believing otherwise.

Bridging our differences is the humble joy of the extravagantly blessed. In time, we hope, even the ingrate next door will warm to the Thanksgiving spirit as we have. We are the grateful Americans.