Freedom, in either its political or economic appearance, has never been a lasting guest in the American home when it was merely taken for granted.
The celebration of Thanksgiving in America is rooted, more than anything, in the blessing of freedom and opportunity. Those were the hallmarks that beckoned the first settlers to the far off shores of the new England. They are what is celebrated in the uniquely American way each year at this time.
Through evolution and revolution, titanic wars and epic financial upheavals, America has come to define ideas like a free market, individual choice and accountability among those who exercise power – whether in the economic arena or in the political. In many ways, these principles have become a model for much of the world. But their ascent has not been without cost. And the need to defend these values has, time and again, come with a painful price tag.
As America contemplates its blessings this Thanksgiving, it is timely for it to consider whether it serves the cause of political freedom by propping up corrupt regimes, such as the one that rules Afghanistan today, where, right now, thousands of U.S., Canadian, British and other NATO military personnel are placing their lives on the line, and where so many have paid the ultimate price. It is also wise to consider whether the idea of free market capitalism is well served by the constant enrichment of the regime in China, which promotes not a capitalism which extols individual rights and freedom of choice, but an authoritarian capitalism based on secrecy, tyranny and force. This system was well illustrated earlier this month when President Barack Obama visited Beijing and where his “media conference” was not permitted to see a single question asked. That is the way in China; it is not a model America looks good in adopting.
It is also time to ponder whether America is well-served by its financial system, which, after blundering into the worst crisis since the Great Depression and needing a head-spinning succession of taxpayer bailouts (with perhaps more to come), is rewarding itself with billions in bonuses while millions of Americans are losing their jobs, their homes and their dreams. Then there is the Federal Reserve system, which appears more and more to view its role as pushing out trillions to keep Wall Street happy, while Main Street is left to cope under an almost unfathomable mountain of debt and a coming gale of inflation from which there will be no shelter. Far from preserving the freedom of Americans in recent months, these institutions seem increasingly to have made them hostages to profligacy and misjudgment.
From the battered Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock and the courageous Rangers, Marines and service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan to a struggling middle class and the steadily vanishing members of the Greatest Generation too often left in poverty and fear, Thanksgiving is a lunch that has never come free. And freedom has never been a lasting guest in the American home when it was merely taken for granted.