Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I'm Thankful for America

I have much for which to be thankful this Thanksgiving season. Oh, there’s always plenty to gripe about. But, take my word for it, whining simply isn’t as fulfilling as being grateful.

The irrepressible Mark Steyn discusses the American uniqueness of Thanksgiving in this NRO article. Steyn writes, “Americans should, as always, be thankful this Thanksgiving, but they should also understand just how rare in human history their blessings are.”

Of course the pessimists among us feel that the sheer fact that we enjoy such rare blessings is ample cause for self-flagellation. Steyn has a different take. He says that the USA is “is one of the oldest settled constitutional democracies on earth, to a degree “the Old World” can barely comprehend. Where it counts, Americans are traditionalists.”

Steyn recounts with his trademark irreverent humor how short-lived most other constitutional democracies in the world actually are. Then he accurately notes, “The U.S. Constitution is not only older than France’s, Germany’s, Italy’s or Spain’s constitution, it’s older than all of them put together.” Of course, many of us think our Constitution is in grave danger of being marginalized. Steyn doesn’t dismiss this when he writes:

“I don’t believe the U.S. Constitution includes a right to abortion or gay marriage or a zillion other things the Left claims to detect emanating from the penumbra, but I find it sweetly touching that in America even political radicalism has to be framed as an appeal to constitutional tradition from the powdered-wig era. In Europe, by contrast, one reason why there’s no politically significant pro-life movement is because, in a world where constitutions have the life expectancy of an Oldsmobile, great questions are just seen as part of the general tide, the way things are going, no sense trying to fight it. And, by the time you realize you have to, the tide’s usually up to your neck.”

I realize that it’s vogue among the elite and the Left to detest the USA nowadays, but I agree with Steyn when he says we should be highly grateful for our nation. Not only should we be grateful for it, but “on this Thanksgiving the rest of the world ought to give thanks to American national sovereignty, too. When something terrible and destructive happens — a tsunami hits Indonesia, an earthquake devastates Pakistan — the U.S. can project itself anywhere on the planet within hours and start saving lives, setting up hospitals and restoring the water supply.”

Steyn also argues in favor of using military might to achieve good, when he says, “If America were to follow the Europeans and maintain only shriveled attenuated residual military capacity, the world would very quickly be nastier and bloodier, and far more unstable. It’s not just Americans and Iraqis and Afghans who owe a debt of thanks to the U.S. soldier but all the Europeans grown plump and prosperous in a globalized economy guaranteed by the most benign hegemon in history.”

Former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) suggested that it is possible to love America, even while acknowledging her imperfections.

“Am I embarrassed to speak for a less than perfect democracy? Not one bit. Find me a better one. Do I suppose there are societies that are free of sin? No, I don’t. Do I think that ours is on balance incomparably the most hopeful set of human relations the world has? Yes, I do. Have we done obscene things? Yes, we have. How did our people learn about them? They learned about them on television and in the newspapers.”

The USA is far from perfect. But on this Thanksgiving, I agree with Mark Steyn and Senator Moynihan that she is a grand country. And I am exceedingly grateful for how blessed my life is because of her.


y-intercept said...

It is strange that the left destests the USA. This is strange as the left is driven by an ideology that raises the state to a religion. They hate the US government, but want it to have absolute control over our healthcare. Go figure?

I've read enough history to know that we should be thankful for living in America. The founders of the United States created a system that works and that can bring widespread prosperity. I really wish our intellectual class spent more time looking at this model rather than throwing all of their effort into trying to realize the dark fantasies of Marx.

I think the heart of conservatism is an effort to look at history and distill out those methods that lead to widespread prosperity.

Patriotism is a complex topic. History has many examples of people engaged in self-destructive behavior or doing terrible things to others in the name of the love of their country.

A healthy patriot is a person who sees both good and evil in their nation's history and who fights for the good. Healthy patriotism is not simply a blind allegiance to a regime as the left would contend. Healthy patriots are actively engaged in both the defense and improvement of a society.

The apparent fact that the left disdains this country is quite interesting.

Progressive ideology seems to be one where you take a good idea and push it to its extreme. A good example is that the progressives of last century pushed the difference between races to an extreme and created Jim Crow laws to create and apatheid style system of separate but equal facilities for blacks and whites. When it was finally clear the progressive idea of separate but equal was oppresssive, the progressives thrashed to the other extreme of demanding forced integration.

The progressives of last century dammed hundreds of rivers and nuclear facilities without even the least bit of thought of the consequences. They then thrashed to the extreme of blocking all such development.

My experience to date is that progressives are one dimensional thinkers who face each idea they come across and think they either must push it to an extreme or disdain it.

As I said earlier, good patriotism is balanced. It is a process of active engagement where the patriot is seeking both to promote the good in their society while trying to defend it from attack.

The progressive ideology (Marxist Dialectics) either disdains or pushes an idea to its absurdity.

In a bizarre way, I am thankful that the progressives currently disdain our nation. Were the left to suddenly decide that patriotism was the path to power, they would push patriotism to its Nazi-esque extreme.

The process of being able to see both the good and bad in things and being thankful for the good probably does more to promote real progress in the world than all of the University based socially active focus groups combined.

Reach Upward said...

"I think the heart of conservatism is an effort to look at history and distill out those methods that lead to widespread prosperity."

I have recently been reading The Fatal Conceit by F. Hayek. He essentially presents this same argument. He argues against the pure rationalist, constructivist approach to social matters, and says that this approach can never achieve the goals it sets out to achieve. Furthermore, he argues that self-restrained freedom is the only path to widespread prosperity.

While Hayek agrees that prosperity alone cannot ensure happiness, he contends that the rationalist and constructivist models necessarily ensure a lower rate of happiness.

Democracy Lover said...

We should indeed be thankful for our Constitution and it is in grave danger as Steyn suggests, although he ignores its enemies.

We have a government, largely elected by people calling themselves conservative, that has flagrantly violated the Bill of Rights and totally ignores the Separation of Powers doctrine. The Bush Administration asserts a view of Executive authority that runs totally counter to the Constitution and is exactly what the Founders feared and did their best to prevent.

Steyn's portrayal of the U.S as the "most benign hegemon" reveals not only his lack of understanding of the Constitution and the Founder's repeated warnings against standing armies and foreign entanglements, but it demonstrates his utter lack of knowledge about recent history. I doubt the families of the hundreds of thousands killed by the "benign hegemon" and its proxies would share his view.

I also agree with Y that "A healthy patriot is a person who sees both good and evil in their nation's history and who fights for the good." Unfortunately he then immediately attacks "the left" for hating America when they do exactly what he suggests. The problem of democracy is that not everyone will agree on what is good or evil in their nation - possibly because some invent a history to support their political ideology.