Memorial Day is a time to reflect on the country, on where it’s been, and where it is headed. I was watching a documentary recently on the Cape Verde islands. We think we have poverty in America. Perhaps we do. But that is nothing compared to the poverty in Cape Verde. Or Honduras. Or much of Africa, or Central and Southern America, or large parts of Asia. Billions of individuals simply living from day to day. In America, we fret and worry about whether our economy will take a tumble, and have what we feel to be justified concerns over our economic and political stability. But too often we forget how much we have been given.
With this in mind, there are many things in the American tradition I am grateful for.
I am grateful for a tradition of liberty and freedom that our country was founded on, that all are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights.
I am grateful for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the freedom to assemble. I’m most grateful for the accompanying freedom of religion which allowed for the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I am grateful for checks and balances, and for separation of powers.
I am grateful for the portion of my paycheck I can take home.
I am grateful for private property.
I am grateful for the gold standard, that it was actually in force in this country for over a century.
I am grateful for a brain to use.
I am grateful for times of peace, and for ambassadors of peace.
In short, I am grateful for many freedoms and liberties I may take for granted. But all is not well. I am no Pollyanna.
I am not grateful for encroachments upon our liberties, including the fourth amendment: unlawful search and seizure. The PATRIOT Act has really done a number on this one.
I am not grateful for the big chunk of my paycheck I cannot take home.
I am not grateful for an overtaxed and over-regulated economy.
I am not grateful for the general apathy (or even support) towards our growing military-industrial complex.
I am not grateful for a growing feeling of militarism, or militant nationalism, that we somehow equate with true patriotism. For instance, to “support the troops” now means to support a certain foreign policy ideology rather than to actually support the general welfare of the troops.
I am not grateful for the flood of pornography, of obscenity, of profanity, of graphic and gratuitous violence that seems nearly inescapable today.
I am not grateful for the general sense that war in an inescapable, inexorable and necessary (for some, even beneficial) temporal force used to shape history, rather than the avoidable tragedy is always turns out to be. We too often forget the high costs of war, both at home and abroad, and the nature of fallen mortals who decide what wars to wage, and how to wage them.
Finally, to end on a positive note, let me say that I am most grateful for hope, for education, and for the possibilities of change, of restoration, and repentance, both individually and as a nation.
What are you grateful for?