Thankful for America

File:Full view of the city on top of mountain, "Walpi, Arizona, 1941,"., 1941 - NARA - 519989.jpg

My old political science professor, Dr. Peter Sampo, used to remind us:

When you get down on your knees, thank God that He sent you men like Washington, Jefferson, and Adams, not men like Hitler, Pol Pot, and Stalin.

It’s no news that we take our blessings for granted; but I’m dismayed to see people completely losing sight of the advantage we have as Americans.  We often feel ashamed of our material advantages, because we’re so much more well off than other parts of the world; but there’s nothing wrong with taking a minute to be thankful for spacious housing, a huge variety of cheap and convenient food, running water, paved roads, reliable electricity, and so on.  And in the middle of all the hand-wringing over various political developments, let’s remember how great America still is.  Every day I see people talking about the growth of tyranny, or a police state, or socialism in our country.  I’m not saying these people don’t have legitimate concerns; but what an insult it is to America, and to countries dealing with real tyranny, to act as if America’s no better than Nazi Germany.  We’ve become so afraid of jingoism and exceptionalism that we don’t allow ourselves to see how exceptional our poor wounded country still is.

Yes, we have our problems with corrupt police officers; but we don’t have to worry that a routine traffic stop is probably going to end with a policeman beating you up, like my friend from Rwanda described.  Yes, we are living in a culture of death; but women are not being systematically forced by the government to abort their children, like in China.  Yes, Christians are being persecuted by being forced to comply with laws that offend their consciences; but priests are not being executed for saying Mass, like they were in Mexico 80 years ago.  Yes, our government has been spying on us; but it’s not sending soldiers out to hunt us down, like the pogroms my great-grandparents fled in Russia and Ukraine.

Let’s keep a watchful eye on our government, by all means; but let’s not be so cynical that we forget how blessed we are to have “an open field and a fair chance.”  Happy Independence Day!


3 thoughts on “Thankful for America

  1. “Yes, we have our problems with corrupt police officers; but we don’t have to worry that a routine traffic stop is probably going to end with a policeman beating you up, like my friend from Rwanda described.”

    What an incredible statement to make. Have you paid attention to anything that has been going on in the United States over the past year? Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, etc, etc, etc, etc.


    • I actually wrote about Freddie Gray here:
      My point is not that police outrages don’t happen, but that when they do, people are outraged, and the police are investigated and judged by a court of law. Police corruption in America is the exception that proves the rule. This is completely different than Rwanda, where not only is it _expected_ that the police are corrupt and violent, but innocent people have no recourse when they are mistreated by police; the police are not held accountable to the law, as they are in America. This is a really important distinction. It’s one thing to denounce police violence in America, and worry about it being a slippery slope; but it’s another thing to act as if that makes us _the same_ as a country with no rule of law. Frankly, it’s insulting to people who live in countries like Rwanda.


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