By Alan Caruba
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Memories of Thanksgiving's Past
By Alan Caruba
This Thanksgiving Day I will dine alone. I will think about what I have to give thanks for—my health, the fact that I have seen 75 Thanksgiving Days come and go, a life with few regrets—but my day will be a sad one, not for myself, but for my nation.
I have always been an optimistic person, but that optimism has been drained by four years of Obama’s regime and the prospect of four more. It is compounded by a Congress that has steadily marched toward turning America into a European socialist economy now on the brink of financial collapse and, worse, by a nation that has abandoned many of the values and shared beliefs that made it great; a beacon of freedom for those who chose to come here, a superpower following World War II, a compassionate and largely tolerant nation.
I mark its long decline from the 1960s when the sons and daughters of a generation that had worked hard and followed the rules thought it was cool not to believe “anyone over thirty”, and, in 1967, adopted Timothy Leary’s drug-induced advice to “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” He was speaking at a “Human Be-in” gathering of 30,000 “hippies” in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
That generation is now in charge of the nation, has long since debased the nation’s educational system, comprises the membership or supporters of countless “environmental” organizations, and voted for Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and Obama.
They believe that the Republican Party is composed of “old white men”, and that government is all about “entitlements.” When I was a lad, we used to admire, respect, and even elect old white men.
From the earliest years of the last century, the nation began to adopt a lot of progressive ideas such as the income tax, the Federal Reserve, support for the union movement, and, in general, class warfare.
My childhood years were those in which the nation defeated two totalitarian threats to freedom and liberty in Europe and in Japan. By my teenage years in the 1950s all manner of technologies we take for granted emerged to make life so much easier and more entertaining. My Mother used to hang the wash on clotheslines to dry. Summers meant heat and mosquitoes.
Entertainment was the radio and a Saturday movie matinee. Then came washing and drying machines, air conditioning, television, pesticides that suppressed the mosquito population and killed the legions of ants, cockroaches, and termites that spread disease and damage homes. There were medical breakthroughs that ended the scourge of polio and provided relief from other diseases.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other national holidays were joyous times; particularly the Fourth of July and the respect for fallen heroes expressed on Memorial—now Veterans—Day. There were symbols of these holidays that were proudly displayed, but now we live in a nation where atheists protest the cross and the crèche in the public square, where prayer is banned in schools, and where even displaying the flag evokes protests, but burning it is deemed free speech.
Americans strove to repair the ills of the past. A hundred years past the Civil War, the civil rights movement, amidst marches and riots, they secured legal guarantees for African-Americans, formerly called Blacks or Negroes. Despite those laws, the Black community in America has remained mired in social pathologies seen in their crime rates, their school drop-out rates, their drug problems, and their broken families. The good news is that many Blacks have overcome obstacles to achieve success in various sectors of life in America. They did it the old-fashioned way, through education and hard work.
On June 28, 1969, a group of men at a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn grew angry at the harassment by police. They took a stand and a riot broke out. It was the beginning of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered movement that has since infiltrated our school systems and is demanding same-sex marriage nationwide. They are a distinct minority.
In 1973 the Supreme Court decided that abortion was a woman’s right. The pharmaceutical industry would introduce “the pill” and the nation’s morals shifted in a dark direction.
Around my family’s dinner table on earlier Thanksgivings these events were discussed. My parents were Democrats and liberals, early supporters of the United Nations, and not given to racial intolerance.
Both were the children of immigrants. My father was of Italian heritage and my Mother’s father was a Russian. Her response was to learn how to prepare all of my Father’s favorite dishes and it grew into a career teaching haute cuisine and authoring books. She became internationally famed for her knowledge of wines; the first woman to become a member of the board of the Sommeliers Society. In his day, my Father was one of the youngest men to become a Certified Accountant in New Jersey.
In 1942 they had moved from Newark to a suburban town of Maplewood, well known for its excellent educational system. An older brother would follow in his father’s footsteps, join his firm, and marry. I would become a journalist and then a public relations counselor. My parents and I would live there for 62 years, participating in the life of the township. After they died the rising property taxes prompted a move to a rental complex in an adjacent community after the house was sold.
All around us, the nation drifted into a moral decline, best seen perhaps in the drug culture, but also in what passed for entertainment. Pornography became a pastime. Sex and violence, always a mainstay of films, became more blatant. Television sitcoms went from the fun of watching the “Dick Van Dyke Show” to the coarse humor of “Married With Family” and to current offerings that feature casual sex, gay families, and general vulgarity.
Politics, always a blood sport in America, has degenerated into the present gridlock. America drifted into wars in Vietnam and the Middle East. Communism took over China. The Soviet Union collapsed. And the world witnessed the rise of militant Islam.
In the span of my life we went from Pearl Harbor to 9/11. We went from the Great Depression to an economy that is barely recovering or even growing. It is stagnating.
In 2008, America elected its first Black President, a man whose personal biography was a carefully crafted fiction and whose personal paper trail remains hidden from public review. A war hero and longtime Senator, John McCain, and in 2012 a successful venture capitalist, Mitt Romney, were both defeated by a combination of white guilt and class warfare. Both Republicans were labeled “old white men”, as if their long history of service to their nation meant nothing.
On this Thanksgiving Day, an estimated 23 million Americans are unemployed or have stopped looking for work, 47 million are on food stamps, and millions receive some kind of government payments from Social Security and/or Medicare/Medicaid; programs going broke along with the rest of the economy. Dozens of other government programs dispense public funds, most of which must be borrowed.
We will watch the Macy’s parade and football games. We will gather with our families. We will hope that Congress and the White House can avoid a “fiscal cliff.” We will find things for which to give thanks, but the reality is that an America that credited both God and our own self-reliance has been abandoning the values and beliefs that made it great for a long time.
There is one prospect—I told you I was an optimist—that may turn the economy around. It is the enormous reserves of natural gas and oil that will be tapped via fracking in the years immediately ahead. America can become energy independent and an exporter of gas and oil. Coal, too, if it is still being mined. This would generate billions for the nation’s economy. It will, however, also allow the federal government to grow larger.
© Alan Caruba, 2012