Thanks for Nothing?

On the contrary.

This is not much of a time for thankfulness.

We are, we are told, suffering through the worst economic slump since the Great Depression.  Businesses everywhere are contracting, and what yesterday were the most stable, respected, and wealthy firms are now penniless and bankrupt.  Merrill Lynch, Lehman Bros., Wachovia, Citibank - the list goes on, and on.

Now the collapse is spreading into the wider economy - such famous names as Circuit City, General Motors, and Chrysler are in fact bankrupt if not yet bankrupt legally.  And don't even think about the financial situation of the airlines.

The shock has not yet been fully felt in the employment statistics, but everybody feels poorer anyway.  That's because home values have been plummeting at a rate not seen in living memory.  As many as one quarter of mortgage holders, we hear, owe the bank more than their home is worth.  From paper wealth to paper poverty in a year is a jolt to any system.

To cap it all off, we have elected by far the most liberal president who has ever run for the office (to say nothing of actually winning), and backed him up with overwhelming liberal majorities in both houses.  Nothing now stands in the way of enacting the long-heralded policies of neo-Marxist socialism.  Four years from now, our law and our politics will be almost unrecognizable.

No, for conservatives, this is a time for sackcloth and ashes, not for celebration.

Rubbish!  We have, if anything, more to be thankful for this year than we have in years past.  It's when times are hard that we can truly appreciate the tremendous blessings that are ours as Americans.

The Conservatism of the Founders

Perhaps the most fundamental source of gratitude this year is for the ageless wisdom of our founding fathers.  One needn't look hard to be utterly astounded by their foresight, but this period of single-party hegemony underscores possibly their greatest achievement in governance: designing a system that is intentionally conservative and very difficult to change quickly.

Consider: the Democrats will enjoy complete power across all three branches of government; they dominate the executive branch, the legislature, and the judiciary.  And yet, if Mr. Obama's appointments and the worried hedging by Nancy Pelosi are anything to go by, we will not likely see the complete revolution in policy that the netroots have been demanding.

Yes, obviously there will be a sharp turn to the left.  Yes, there will be terrible, destructive laws enacted, but total power does not bring unity; instead, it brings infighting.

We see this in issues across the board, from bailing out the car companies to enacting more onerous environmental regulations to, even, extending to unions untrammeled power to organize workers against their will.

For every Democratic senator who wants to ban the internal combustion engine, there is another Democrat who wants to preserve the UAW and the Detroit Three in their present form.  That union-owned Democrat is probably also in favor of destroying the right to a free ballot in union elections - but then, there's another Democrat who is adamant on the importance of all elections being free and fair, having spent the last eight years accusing Republicans of rigging votes via computer fraud.  All down the policy list, the inherent tensions and contradictions within the Democratic party are coming out.

For the founders had the wisdom to make our representatives responsible to the people, not to their parties.  It may be to a politician's best advantage to vote the party line when he can - but if he votes too ostentatiously against the wishes of his constituents, he'll find himself unemployed.  Nancy Pelosi is learning what conservatives learned to their sorrow a few years ago: herding cats is not easy.

Switching over everything all at once is also impossible.  Mr. Obama and the far left have won a great victory, true - and yet, as shellacked as Republicans are, there are still a fair number of them around.  By design, only one third of our Senators are elected in any given election year.  The other two thirds are left over from before.

Our Founders knew that there would be political fads, panics, and effective demagogues, all of which were strongly in play in 2008.  To protect our system from being swept away in a momentary landslide, they designed the Senate for the express purpose of slowing things down.  What few Republicans there are left will become very skilled in obstructionism, following the example House Republicans have set for the last two years and the example of the Democrats before them.

Nancy Pelosi rode to power on the promise of forcing our army out of Iraq immediately if not sooner; how's that working out for her?  Having won the election, Mr. Obama is talking about a surge in Afghanistan!  'Nuff said.

It's a Long, Long Way Down

Political structure aside, we have even more to be thankful for than most Americans can realize or understand.  Our nation's leftists often point overseas as examples of how things ought to be done - socialistic welfare states, national economic champions, emasculated militaries, and all the rest.  It's funny that they should think this way, because there are few things more likely to make you a conservative, and a patriot, than extensive travel through other lands.

Other countries have admirable histories of art, culture, and beauty, and we don't mean to insult them in any way; but even Europe is a far cry from the wealth of America's common people.  As for the developing world, well, if you have ever spent any significant time in a truly poor country, you will fall to your knees and kiss the sacred ground when you return home, thanking the Almighty for the awesome privilege of being born an American.

Which brings us to an enlightening comparison with our cousins across the pond.  A century ago, England stood in a similar position to where America stands today - striding the world as a colossus.  The British Empire was the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful of all time.  Oh, there were disagreements and conflicts with other great powers, but nobody seriously expected any great changes in the status quo.

Two world wars later, midcentury, Britain found herself having lost an empire, her place of prominence, and what had been seen as her reason for being.  In response to pressures at home, England enacted a plan of socialism which Mr. Obama and Ms. Pelosi only dream of: nationalizing whole industries from transport to energy; creating an explicitly socialist welfare state; single-payer health care free to all via the ubiquitous National Health Service; and, thanks to not having a First Amendment and having a tradition of onerous libel laws, not having to listen to too much protest.

Where is England today?  Not on top of the world, no.  Not as rich as we are, or as rich as they once were relative to everyone else, but nobody would say that the life of an ordinary Englishman is a bad one.  Even in the depths of the 1970s recession, England did not have thousands starving to death as so many countries routinely do; it was still recognizably a member of the First World.

If we make the same socialistic blunders that England did; if we abandon religion and morals as they have; if we abandon the duties and responsibilities of economic and military leadership that England once gladly bore, we will as surely fall off our perch; but equally, we will not tomorrow find ourselves living in Haiti.  One of the advantages of being on top of the world is that, even if you fall, you can fall a long, long way... and yet still find yourself a long, long way above the very bottom.

America has stood taller than others because we stand on the back of giants, throughout our own history and extending into the history of English parliaments and traditional liberties going back a thousand years.  We may very well be heading for a fall; there may be a great deal of climbing back up to be done, or becoming accustomed to a new humility.  But it's difficult for any single American human being, growing up with wealth undreamed of through most of time, to truly understand just how far up we really are without living for a while in poorer lands.

Even if the very worst happens over the next four years - if Mr. Obama puts through every last Marxist economic policy he's ever advocated, every last totalitarian regulation and restriction on conservative speech he's argued for, every last intrusion into our daily lives, and squeezes every cent in taxes that he's ever mentioned; and even if, as we fear, these blunders throw us into a true Second Great Depression; and even if, thanks to the willing adulation of the media, these disasters are blamed entirely on Republicans rather than on the Democrats where the true blame lies...

We will still live in a country richer by far, freer by far, and more blessed in every way, than 99% of all humanity since the beginning of time.

What's more, thanks once again to our magnificent Constitution, we will have the opportunity to prove the truth of Winston Churchill's observation: "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else."  Our freedoms allow miraculous recoveries from seemingly certain doom.

No matter how bad things get, or seem to get, as long as our system of governance remains, we have every reason for the most profound gratitude.

Almost every politician says "God bless America" as reflexively as they do their own name; but there's really no need.  God has already blessed America beyond all measure - so vastly, so bountifully, that all the liberals in the land can't even destroy it overnight.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, in a totally different context but no less relevant in this one, "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gifts."

Happy Thanksgiving.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Society.
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