Giving Thanks for America's Wonderful Life

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.

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