Every Thanksgiving I put a lock on my pecan pies until the entire family is gathered round for our annual viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life. Watching this all-American Christmas classic with me is the price I exact for my feastly labors. And in a family where I’m the only living soul with cooking skills above a turn-on-the-microwave-first-grader, I know — every single year — that this sentimental indulgence of mine is a done deal.
George Bailey’s story is by now so intimately known by our family and by hosts of other ordinary Americans that it’s hard to imagine it still has any appeal worth two hours and ten minutes of precious time. Oh, but it has.
We meet George Bailey in the throes of a suicidal breakdown. His dilemma revolves around missing money belonging to his humble family’s small-town building and loan business. George is so distraught over what will happen to his wife, children, family business, and his employees if the missing funds cause him to go to jail that he has determined his life insurance policy makes him more valuable dead than alive.
If there were such a thing as life insurance for a nation facing ignominious financial ruin, America herself might be having a “George Bailey” moment right about now.
Here we are, a downgraded-nearly-to-junk nation, facing off with our own quite-possible demise. And modern America seems to have produced far more folks with Mr. Potter’s greedy bent than the morally upright George Baileys.
Right in our midst, we see scores of our fellow citizens who seem to think America’s Wonderful Life isn’t even worth preserving.
This is so sad. If only America could have the intervention of a guardian angel to show us all a world as it might have been without our aid and comfort through the past 250 years.
Those who run madly into the streets, denouncing American capitalism, have lost sight of all the good this system has done to bring common people the world over a standard of living unimaginable for former generations of earthly inhabitants.
America’s Wonderful Life has blessed oh-so-many lives.
What is to become of modern civilization if we Americans throw in the towel on the ideals of liberty and individual dignity, and stop believing that these are worth the suffering required to protect them? How can it be that young Americans do not see the bountiful blessings bestowed upon the rest of the world by us?
Our creative people, free to indulge their unique curiosities, have invented so many life-improving things that it is impossible to catalog them all. While talented inventors have certainly sprung from every other nation, it has been the unique American way of life that inspired making things efficiently and cheaply enough that most of the world’s inhabitants could eventually afford them.
Thomas Edison did not invent the incandescent light bulb, but he was intent on fashioning one that could be easily attainable for the vast majority. Edison was the first to conceive of the idea of power plants that would deliver this modern miracle on a scale unknown then to the world. Edison was also the scientific pioneer who designed the first industrial research lab, bringing together the talents of many in search of solutions to the practical problems of common men and women.
Henry Ford was not the inventor of the combustible engine or the automobile, but Ford was the man whose greatest desire was to make a car that common people could actually afford to own and operate. Before Ford’s assembly-line production innovation, only aristocrats and other wealthy people could afford the luxury.
Next: “Confronting totalitarianism of all stripes has been one of the hallmarks of American existence…”
And then there is my personal favorite invention of the entire 20th Century, the internet. All Americans ought to pause for a moment and consider whether any other country in the world, whose military had invented the internet, would have shared this beyond-amazing technology with the common man all over the entire planet. I don’t think so. If the Russians or the Chinese had invented the internet, they would have used it as a weapon of war, reserved to themselves and their like-minded communist tyrants. If any Muslim country had invented the internet, they would have used it to keep their modern slavery going forever. But America has shared this amazing open communication channel with the whole world. This one thing alone ought to quell any talk of American imperialism until the end of time. The internet, to this very day, is the most democratic and human-rights enabling invention since the printing press, and every citizen in every country ought to be heralding our generosity on this one with celebration.
The American innovations in farming alone have spared millions from miserable lives and starvation. The American innovations in science and medicine have made incalculable improvements in the lives of real people all over the world for more than a century.
And certainly at the forefront of America’s contributions to world civilization have been the wars fought in defiance of tyranny. Confronting totalitarianism of all stripes has been one of the hallmarks of American existence, and the only land we’ve claimed as victors was enough to bury our dead. Wars fought by Americans, both at home during the Civil War, and abroad, have unarguably provided the greatest advances in the cause of human rights — ever.
As we allow our country to be downgraded like some worthless stock in meltdown mode, it might behoove us to just take a few moments to glance back at what we will be leaving behind. No nation has ever been perfect; none ever will be. But destroying the best one to date without a tested plan for a replacement is nothing more than the work of fools.
As I watch It’s a Wonderful Life this year, as is our custom on Thanksgiving Day, I’m going to put America in the place of George Bailey, for we are now at our bleakest hour and see ourselves as Bailey did, as an abject failure without ever having fulfilled our original promise. And just as George Bailey saw what his world would have been like without his simple good deeds and honest striving, so I will imagine a world without there ever having been an America.
As I see this scenario in my mind’s eye, I know that I’ll once again be joyful in the American experiment’s successes and will rejoice at her magnificent contributions to the health, happiness, and prosperity for not only ourselves, but in truth, for the whole world.
Happy Thanksgiving, America! You deserve it.
Check out Kyle-Anne’s previous PJ Steel Magnolia articles:
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