Yesterday, I was reminded that wishing a stranger in Northern California "Happy Thanksgiving" always carries a frisson of risk. It certainly felt slightly transgressive, especially after being among like-minded compadres last week, because you never know if deep down inside, the person to whom you're speaking has self-installed the Stepford microchip that will make them go all Angelina Jolie upon hearing the greeting.
(As to why some choose to install the Stepford microchip, that's the topic of this recent Dennis Prager essay.)
For the rest of us, Roger L. Simon asks today, "Thanksgiving 2010: Is the American Dream Dying?" But before I get to Roger, a passage from Ronald Reagan's epochal "Time for Choosing" speech nearly half a century ago serves as a great introduction:
Not too long ago, two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned to the other and said, "We don't know how lucky we are." And the Cuban stopped and said, "How lucky you are? I had someplace to escape to." And in that sentence he told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there's no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.
And despite the efforts of those who wish to weaken it, it still is, which brings us to Roger's take on the American Dream on this key holiday:
One day, however, I was talking about our countries with my then French girlfriend — we spoke often of les différences between la France et les États-Unis — when she said of the USA: “Roger, you are the window of the world.”The window of the world? I felt a little embarrassed by such a sweeping statement, but I knew instantly what she meant and that it was true — it was a kind of epiphany, I suppose. America represents human aspiration to the world. It is humanity’s window. It is the best of us — where we see our own hopes … and dreams, of course. For all its excesses and imperfections, take away America and you lose that — not just for us, but for everyone. There is no dream, no symbol of humanity’s hope.
My real beef with Barack Obama is that he does not want to acknowledge that or he doesn’t believe it. I don’t know which. But in any case he rejects it. I saw that most clearly on what was for me the worst moment of his sad presidency — when he failed to respond publicly in support of the democracy demonstrators in Iran. He wouldn’t be a window for their dreams and aspirations. Ironically, given his own bloviations, he offered them no hope. He wasn’t a wimp — to come back to Smith’s dichotomy in his first paragraph. He was something worse — a cold narcissistic fish, interested in only his now-absurd negotiation with Ahmadinejad and, of course, in himself. He left the Iranian students with no window — no American dream for their world.
On this Thanksgiving Day, I sincerely hope that Barack Obama and what he stands for is just a bump on an ever-bumpy road and that we are on our way out of the slough of despond that our country finds itself in. I think we can all agree, however, that this slough is pretty deep. Getting out of it will not be as easy as a few tea party victories. The work has only just begun. But it’s worth the effort, most certainly. Happy Thanksgiving.
Related thoughts from Armstrong Williams.