Time to Be Thankful
It’s a tradition in many cultures and religions to have a special time to be thankful or to forgive. In our secular polyglot nation, we have a unique American holiday: Thanksgiving.
As with all things American, Thanksgiving is grounded in the tradition of welcoming our neighbors. And so, this letter is being written to our national icon of Thanksgiving, the Great Turkey. At the time of this writing, our national election is three weeks away—a perfect time to write to you, Great Turkey, to give thanks for our electoral system and, in particular, for this election.
Most Americans age 50 and older retain within their memories grainy black-and-white television images of Selma, Alabama, a destroyed church in Birmingham, and Eugene “Bull” Connor. I doubt there is one American who was alive at that time who doesn’t remember the events of April, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. These awful memories are the past, and that’s just the point: We didn’t see anything remotely like our recent past during this election.
There is a lot not to be thankful for right now. At this writing, $6 trillion of investor’s capital has been lost in the stock market. These can be times of great unrest. But during this election, instead of unrest, we had a contest between a man of hope and a man of honor.
We have had a national debate about very difficult matters. Make no mistake about it—electing the president of the United States is about the transfer of almost unimaginable power. Wars have frequently been fought over less. But not in America and not this fall, and I am thankful.
It is true that any national election will see its share of negative campaigning. It’s a bipartisan phenomenon—one with a long history. People who are outraged by negative campaigning should get out their history books and look at the tactics used against Abraham Lincoln in 1864. Every national campaign has a group of well-paid consultants for whom winning is ethics. And any campaign can veer off into the swamp of our national fevers (just check the blogs). But while many of us have memories of what the worst of these tactics could be, it didn’t happen during this election. I give thanks to John McCain, Barack Obama, and the great American electorate.
The strength of the American economy is not only due to economics, it’s also due to our political culture. Business cannot be conducted unless there is some level of trust and mutual confidence that reasonable laws will be evenly applied. Countries that have the habit of confiscation or autocratic rule do not attract business, and entrepreneurs flee.