I’m a Canadian on assignment in California. Last Thursday I had the pleasure of joining a group of 12 for American Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a much bigger deal down here than it is above the 49th parallel. The days around the holiday are the most travelled of the year. Families and friends come together to give thanks. Strangers wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. Americans believe no one should be alone on Thanksgiving. I’m certain that’s the reason my wife and I scored that dinner invitation.
On reflection of this nation’s celebration, I soon came to realize that Thanksgiving epitomizes America the Good. You see kindness in the people. That’s not to say they are always civilized to one another, especially in political debate; right and left wing positions are as hardened as ever. Yet, apart from an insatiable race for the almighty buck and a few other vices I’ll not mention, American values are admirable.
This brings me to the tattered flag that hangs in shame from my neighbor’s California beach house. Not only on the homeland, but throughout the world the Stars & Stripes has stood for American ideals such as liberty, happiness and equality for all. The red, white and blue rag that I see every day is an outrage. Yet, I cannot avoid the tattered rag’s symbolism – that of a once great nation, now burdened by debt, unemployment, homelessness, and divisiveness. Any student of history will tell you that every great nation eventually crumbles when it succumbs to complacency – when its leaders and its citizens forget that “privilege” does not mean “right.” Home ownership is an example of a privilege. The harder you work for this privilege, the more you appreciate it, like anything else in life that requires sacrifice.
Like a troubled company swimming in red ink, America has its work cut out for it. Politicians say they have the “will” but they seldom show the “way.” Maybe it is time to return to those old fashioned values, the ones that built this country in the first place – what harm could come from hard work, personal sacrifice and acceptance of responsibility? I’ve a hunch bringing these values back into the family unit might be a heck of a good start.