Someone said to me: “Gary, I don’t see any evidence of American pride in your positions. You criticize our great country.”
I was startled. I honestly feel that my perspective is a tribute to America, even when I am critical of politicians, policies and political parties. I never take for granted what this country provides, and I consistently give thanks for all that I have. I’ve been educated, I have a great job, I have healthy children and I am free to speak my mind in the public square.
To bring some harmony to this dissonant chord I decided to form my political views, realized and hopeful, into thoughts of thankfulness.
I am thankful to live in a country where we are free to protest, to peaceably assemble to empower the voice of the people. A country where such a right is recognized as essential to securing our freedom from tyranny.
I am eternally grateful to our military men and women who have bravely sacrificed so that we may have that freedom.
I am thankful that I live in a country that has recognized that clean air and clean water are vital to the health of our nation.
I am hopeful that health care reform will continue, and improve, so that more Americans can live healthier lives and reduce the fear of illness and financial ruin.
I am thankful that I live in a country where the rights of citizens are protected by ethical laws regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion; and that these laws are vigorously examined to suppress the tendencies of prejudice and fear.
I am thankful to live in a country that offers support and help to those who have fallen on hard times or who are challenged by obstacles of ill health, physical or mental, or who have been raised in an environment without advantages.
I am thankful to live in a country where education is acknowledged as the engine of prosperity and freedom, and public education is offered to every child.
I am thankful to live in a country where more reasonable voices can subject an imperfect system to better governance and demand accountability from those who have taken advantage of its flaws.
I am concerned, however, that the national debate has turned into demagoguery that could compromise much of what I am thankful for.
I am concerned that many politicians are working to marginalize, even eliminate, many of those great things that we have fought for. Things like civil rights for all Americans, environmental protections, equality of opportunity, public education, religious freedom and valuable social programs.
I’m a divorced father with two young sons, and this year my family has been extended. Today we will all gather for a lively conversation of hopes, blessings and politics. My 17 year old is becoming engaged in the world around him and I believe he gets a little memory chip from Dad’s passion for public service. Lately he’s been coming to the table to play his own hand.
My youngest is 11 and little of this resonates, but this won’t be the last time ol’ Dad talks about how much he cares about America.
And for now, I am thankful just to have them all for dinner.