Grateful for the United States of America

September 15, 2016

In Gratitude! I shared some advantages attendant to being grateful. I also indulged myself, sharing with readers part of why I am so lucky. (Hint: It’s the people with whom I share my life!)

From a broader perspective, I’m so very grateful for my opportunities. I was born in America. My parents focused, laser-like, on my sisters’ and my education. I’m healthy, mostly. I get paid very well to help others avoid problems. (Truth be told, I do better financially when people skip the avoidance part of the drill.) And on my path I have encountered truly great people: partners in life and work, relatives, role models, and friends!!! Some Life!*

From many during this noisy season, I hear very little gratitude, and lots of hateful awfulness. A few days ago I shared an article about Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia on Facebook. The trolls showed up. This comment stood out:

Sure was hoping it was a fatal heart attack! Greatest thing that could happen to America!

I don’t get the ugly, but I do understand why many among us don’t feel grateful. The so-called free market economy we “enjoy” offers almost nothing for the less advantaged among us, and it hasn’t for decades. There’s nothing kind about capitalism!

That said, I don’t understand enraged, successful Americans. Well-paid workers with health insurance who rant about the Affordable Care Act. Taxpayers who want to “starve the beast” and, at the same time, bemoan our failing infrastructure. And the McGillicuddys, Bianchis, Drumpfs, and, yes, even some Cohens: Successful Americans whose ancestors came because they struggled in their homelands, who rant about the very notion that foreigners might be welcome here.

On FB a few weeks ago a friend’s friend, a landsman, said: “It was different 100 years ago.” Different? Really? The Irish, the Italians, and the Germans welcomed Eastern Europeans Jews? Hell, even the German Jews who arrived a few decades before us didn’t want us here. (By the way, I understand the terror threat. I think the government does check people out, really. And when we figure out how to not have 30,000 gun deaths a year, isolated terror threats will matter much more to me.)

I’m grateful for my country. It’s an amazing place, full of wealth and talent and diversity. Our recipe for success includes many ingredients. We have a big chunk of our planet. Room aplenty for many people. Lots of resources. The wisdom which comes with having been around for a couple of hundred years or so. But I think our diversity is the yeast for bread, the egg whites for a soufflé, or the bacon in a BLT, for without that key ingredient we’re not the United States of America.

So I’m grateful for the peculiar mix of people and cultures we have in our polyglot nation. But I also understand, I think, how assimilation allows so many to forget how their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents found shelter and comfort here.

I know opposition to Obamacare and not wanting to pay for infrastructure, and other issues like them, don’t evidently link up with with immigration. I see a link, however, for it’s the “we’re all in it together” theme which made America great, and makes me grateful for the chances I’ve gotten here. And when we decide not to concern ourselves with others’ health issues—as if viruses and bacterium care—we weaken our nation. When bridges collapse in the wealthiest nation ever, we embarrass ourselves. And when we ignore Emma Lazarus, we’ve lost the forest for the trees.

I’m grateful for those who came before me, who were wise enough to stand up to those who can’t stand Different. That mix mattered greatly to our success. And if America wants to be great again, we need to focus on just exactly what made us great in the first place.

*If my observations sound even a little bit familiar, maybe you’ve read Warren Buffett’s comments at the end of the Chairman’s Letter in the 2009 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Report:

At 86 and 79, Charlie [B-H Vice-Chair Charlie Munger] and I remain lucky beyond our dreams. We were born in America; had terrific parents who saw that we got good educations; have enjoyed wonderful families and great health; and came equipped with a “business” gene that allows us to prosper in a manner hugely disproportionate to that experienced by many people who contribute as much or more to our society’s well-being. Moreover, we have long had jobs that we love, in which we are helped in countless ways by talented and cheerful associates.

While I have referenced the 2009 comments, Mr. Buffett has shared his perspective on many occasions. He, too, gets credit for my being grateful.









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