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As usual, when we think about it, we have much to be thankful for this holiday season. And, as usual, it is good to remind ourselves of the blessings of living in a democracy.
The son of an American mother — Jennie Jerome, born in Brooklyn — Winston Churchill said this in the British House of Commons Nov. 11, 1947: “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Yes, boors shout insults to the president during a speech to a joint session of Congress. I understand they do even worse all the time in the House of Commons. Churchill did his share, I am sure, and got his share of barbs in return.
At an October ceremony in Texas, President Barack Obama joined former President George H.W. Bush to urge more volunteerism from Americans. Bush said this about the level of current political discourse: “People ought to be civil. I worry about yelling at people and this yelling mentality that seems to accompany presidents.”
At the end of the day, the government of the people, by the people and for the people remains, but not without tensions or miscreants leading us into unnecessary wars and turning a blind eye to torture.
There are, thank heaven, enough people who believe in decency to overcome those trends, but not without great effort or suffering defeats from time to time.
If we look back over the decades, especially since the end of World War II, we can see how much progress has been made. We know, too, that much must be done because Churchill was right: Democracy is not perfect or all-wise, but a form of government that by its nature strives for perfection and wisdom even while we realize these characteristics are unattainable.
In these past decades we have seen remarkable progress in the way we care for human beings, both in the law and medical science. Much remains to be done to ensure that all our citizens, and those who are not citizens, are treated with respect and compassion and enjoy the full benefits of freedom.
Tens of millions of us are the beneficiaries of that progress. We are the beneficiaries, too, of the wisdom of leaders who believed health care is not an entitlement, but a right of all citizens. We have not reached perfection in that regard either because — just maybe — that, like democracy, is a goal to be sought but not reached.
When Medicare became law, former President Lyndon Johnson, who worked so hard for it, said this: “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years.”
Above all, at this time when we reflect on our blessings, those of family and friends are our greatest treasures. Those blessings are beyond words. They are part of our daily lives to such an extent that when we take the time to think about them, we can only marvel at how blessed we are.
Democracy is not perfect and not all-wise. Neither is life. But in this wonderful nation, under the rule of law, the possibilities of life are part of who we are. Giving thanks for them should be a part of what we think about often, not just on the fourth Thursday in November.
As we give thanks, let us remember that those of us who can help owe it to our society to assist those in need. At a recent family wedding Elaine and I attended, the bride and groom informed family and friends that “in lieu of a traditional wedding favor, we have made a donation in honor of you to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.” To me, those are true thanks for all of us.
May your Thanksgiving be a time for reflection on just how fortunate we are that our ancestors crossed oceans and braved a new world in which, though tough it may seem at times, all people are created equal under the rule of law and all of us have chances to help those who are needy in body and spirit.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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