Right now, my country, the United States is in a pretty bad way. It isn’t just about our politics (I can only write so much about that topic.) But wage stagnation and inequality has placed the American dream (or basic security) out of reach of so many. The ongoing legacy of slavery has re-emerged in stark ways. There are so many unnecessary petty cruelties visited on so many Americans (including those who are among us but don’t have citizenship). I cannot list them all. (There is also the terrible treatment women must endure – but while I am completely sympathetic to this problem – it is not a problem unique to the United States. Sadly, for so much of human history women have been treated unjustly.)
Today we gather for one of our great – perhaps our greatest – national holiday, Thanksgiving. Of course the day itself is now complicated. The Pilgrims survived thanks to gifts from the native Americans. Those gifts have been repaid – an infinity fold – in murder and theft.
But I still love this country. First, every nation is built on a pile of bones. History is complicated. But the United States was founded on ideals. We do not live up to these ideals, and while it is easy to castigate us for this – no one could live up to our ideals. But we do try, and when we have we have done great things. At home, while so much of our wealth was built on slavery, we also fought a long and terrible war to end it.
Abroad we have done many awful things. This comes with being a great power. But (and you have to grade on a curve here) we are the least bad great power ever. We rebuilt Europe and Japan after WWII. We have promoted freedom and prosperity with at least some success. We have – at our best – been a shining example.
And for me, my life has been very comfortable. But my people, the Jewish people, have been persecuted terribly across the globe. While things have not always been easy for Jews in the United States, it is hard to think of another well place where Jews have been as successful and safe.
So I am thankful and remain thankful and will use my remaining time to help make sure we live up to our better angels and not become just another country.
I’m also thankful for the podcast The Hilarious World of Depression. Seriously grateful.