Things for which I give thanks
November 25, 2016
As we enter the frenzy of the 2016 holiday season, I suggest we take a little time to reflect on what we really have for which to be thankful.
As you read this, it will be the day after Thanksgiving, replete with the usual football games and Black Friday shopping frenzies. The Thanksgiving meal has been eaten among family and friends. Hopefully there are leftovers, and I don't mean that one obnoxious relative.
The original Thanksgiving was a celebration of the turning point of the first settlers at Plymouth Rock. After two years of a program where everyone worked for the "collective" and nearly starved as a result, the Pilgrims celebrated success after the leaders decided everyone should work on their own behalf. The tradition continued although you probably won't find this version, derived from journals, in the history books.
It is all too easy these days to become mired in negativity. After all, we have had a President who seems to be pushing the country toward socialism. Hopefully that will change. We are losing privacy and freedoms in the name of "security." Runaway spending, huge deficits, expanding social programs, and high unemployment are the order of the day.
All of that aside, we should consider the positive. We should be thankful that by circumstance of birth we are able to live in a nation that is still the freest in the world, one that others many times face great peril to come to. No other country offers the rights and privileges that we have, even if sometimes it seems that the difference between a right and a privilege becomes blurred.
We should be thankful for our Constitution. Yes, that "outdated" document written 229 years ago, if properly followed, has created the country that offers unequaled freedom and opportunity. In their infinite wisdom, our founders made provisions for amendments to the Constitution to change those things that don't work or become outdated. That is what should be meant by a living document.
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I am thankful to live in a country that allows freedom of religion. Although that statement has been perverted to also mean freedom from religion, nowhere else can anyone freely practice their beliefs or lack thereof. Major wars have been fought throughout history for the right to practice a particular belief. Thankfully, in this country, with the exception of radical terrorist acts, most of those battles are in the courtroom. The Constitution makes that provision. Remember, however, that although many of the framers of the Constitution were agnostic, that word had a totally different meaning then. The entire document is based on Christian religious tenets. Perhaps that is why some hold it in such disdain.
I am thankful for a family who is diverse but supportive of each other. I know some are not that fortunate, and that lack is a real loss in one's life.
I am thankful that I live in one of the most generous nations on earth. Our government willingly sends assistance to any natural disaster anywhere, even if we can't afford it. More importantly, Americans generously give of their time or money for these same events. American Red Cross, church groups, and other private organizations always have a presence.
Come to think of it, other than the cool planes and helicopters, who needs the government?
I am thankful that I live in a community that offers real patriotism because of a unique blend of agricultural roots and a major military installation.
I am thankful for our military. Those who serve many times give up much that we have no idea of. We all should be grateful. No words can adequately express that gratitude to the families who lose loved ones in military service, but we can and should try. Offer a prayer for those is harm's way.
I am thankful for the spirit, determination, and hardiness of our ancestors who settled this nation. I only hope those traits are not lost. It is what has made this nation great. Imagine the hardships suffered by those who settled at Jamestown, or first crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains, or the western trappers, or the settlers who set out west with everything they owned, all for the quest of a better life. Today's one hour trip took a day or more, many times in danger. May we never lose that mental and physical toughness.
I hope I have provoked some thought. I hope your Thanksgiving was a good one and wish you a happy upcoming Christmas season.
Tom Riggins' column appears every other Friday. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.