Lately I’ve been guilty of worrying a lot about our country and where we’re headed; about stolen elections and the madness of those who call themselves democratic socialists. I’ve worried about a country that can elect Occluded Cortex to the House of Representatives. I’ve worried about how we’re going to take back the culture. I’ve worried about the cold civil war that’s been going on for fifty years going hot.
I know you worry just as much. Possibly about other things too, like, “Are we going to have baby-killing, elder-euthanizing single-payer healthcare crammed down our throats?” and “What will happen to the economy if the Democrats steal enough Senate seats to control the entire legislature?” and “What will happen to the world when the U.S. is going crazy?” and ultimately, “What is the future of humanity on Earth if we let go?”
But we shouldn’t let present worries distract us. Yes, the situation is dire, but honestly, if you look at the past you’ll find they had worries just as big or worse. Why, the Constitution started being modified about 20 years after it was signed. So it’s amazing we still have as much liberty as we do. And even that has been worse at times in the past, in this country. If you don’t believe me, you haven’t read up on primary contemporary sources about people like Woodrow Wilson and FDR.
And that’s not all. Take, for instance, the gentleman who obtruded his complaints on me – no seriously! – in a waiting area this week. First, he started by saying no one talked to each other in waiting areas anymore, and where had good neighborliness gone? Then he moved on to complain about all electronic devices and the people who were using them: the lady who was using her computer, probably for work; the gentleman reading on a tablet; and the other person – me – who was texting on her phone. He complained that when he goes to a nice restaurant he sees entire families texting on their devices instead of talking to each other. (A note here: That younger son and I often text each other at restaurants, particularly when liberals are being loud behind us and we don’t want to start a fight. Quipping everything they say makes us get through the meal with a modicum of enjoyment.)
All of these complaints are valid, of course. Sure, we’ve all complained about people spending too much time on their electronic devices and not paying any attention to us, each other, the world in general.
Beyond the fact that most of these complaints can be solved by not worrying about what other people do or how they behave and letting people be themselves, they’re complaints I’ve heard from my grandmother. Although, in her case, she didn’t complain about electronic devices but people reading magazines and newspapers and books at all times.
I get it. No, I really do. It’s hard, as things change, not to see it all in a negative light. There were and are good things in any time, and sometimes those things get lost as life and technology change and other things improve.
Also, when you remember the past it always seems better, doesn’t it? I remember deep blue summer nights and the smell of things growing. I tend to forget things like the lack of air conditioning and those weeks we had to sleep on the balcony one year because it was too hot everywhere else.
But even if you think your past – or the past someone told you about – was the perfect time and it couldn’t possibly be improved, and that all recent developments and everything that happened in the last 10/20/30/40/50/60 years are worse and that we face the biggest challenges of every generation ever, you have a lot to be thankful for.
You are reading this on a computer that offers you a lot more reading material with more variety than you could get from mass media even ten years ago.
But let’s go back further: you live in a house that more than likely has heating and cooling; you have access to food from all over the world in all seasons; it is likely you can keep that food fresh in a fridge. You have light at night, and if you think that doesn’t matter, you must never have spent any amount of nighttime having to depend on candles or oil lamps. (Yeah, Portugal had a lot of blackouts when I was growing up.)
More importantly, in terms of the greatest improvements to human life, health, and lifespan, you can and do wash fairly regularly (I hope. Well, if you don’t, just don’t sit next to me in a restaurant, or I’ll text younger son about your b.o.), a task for which you have convenient facilities in your weatherproof house and can buy soap cheaply and conveniently.
If you had ever carried water in from a well or a river and had to heat it to lukewarm before taking a bath or you ever had to make your own soap, you’d realize what a great boon this is.
Keep in mind that throughout 99.9 percent of recorded human history – and in parts of the world today – you had to go through an extraordinary amount of trouble to achieve a somewhat clean body.
But beyond having a clean body, you also have access to medicines that keep you relatively unscathed and healthy into ages your ancestors could only dream of.
Yes, I know it’s become fashionable to believe that people in the past lived as long as we did. Guys, in many ways I am from the past. Where I grew up, sixty was old – really old – and living to 80 was fairly rare, and 100-year-olds were featured on TV programs when they were discovered. And there were often doubts about their being realistic and questions about whether it was merely an error in recording.
Even the people who made it to sixty or seventy looked a lot older, more tired, and less capable than sixty- or seventy-year-olds today because they’d usually endured longer, more painful diseases than we do, and they had fewer medicines to combat chronic problems.
More than that, things keep getting better. If you are a writer or an artist, you can reach a global audience more easily than ever. In the last hundred years, we’ve practically licked poverty. Sure, the poor will always be with us because poverty is a relative thing, but we’re all getting relatively richer.
Look, let’s be blunt: in historical terms, you were born in the best time to be born. You’re in the 1 percent of health, wealth and potential. On top of that, if you were born and live in the United States of America, you’re in the top 3 percent of health, wealth, and potential for the world right now.
If that’s not enough to be thankful for this Thanksgiving day, I don’t know what it is.
Go eat your turkey. Prepare yourself to patiently put up with your more annoying relatives – you know who they are. Oh, having vivid fantasies of stuffing them like a turkey makes it easier to answer their ideas that Bernie is the savior of mankind . Enjoy the relatives whose company you actually enjoy. Gather your friends around and have a nice time.
All the crazy things happening in our country? We can deal with them. They’re nothing other generations haven’t faced – in a different form – and beaten. So why shouldn’t we, who’ve been given so much, manage it?
Be not afraid. We’ve got this. And for that I’m thankful.