The value of liberty was thus enhanced in our estimation by the difficulty of its attainment.
- George Washington
No one needs convincing that, on Thanksgiving Day 2003, the world is not a secure place. Some would say thats also a description of todays America, and a far cry from the country conceived in freedom and nurtured on thankfulness for our visionary Founding Fathers and the God who, in the words of Katharine Lee Bates, shed his grace on thee.
Sighs, despair, and epithets spew from the anti-everything crowd, those who long for ill defined principles that, in their eyes, this administration or that military leader has trampled beyond their recognition.
But is this really such an unusual time in America? To answer that question, on this Thanksgiving Day, Ive looked back at generations, military conflicts and presidential administrations past. Perhaps youll be as surprised as I was by what I found.
During deliberations among Americas Founding Fathers prior to the Declaration of Independ-ence, "strong-willed men from different colonies found scant room for agreement The task was formidable: "My mind was overborne with burdens, admitted future President John Adams, "but we labored ceaselessly to make 13 clocks strike precisely alike. It is your hard lot and mine to be called into life at such a time as this, he replied to his critics." (200 Years, U.S. News and World Report, 1973).
A behind-the-scenes look at the trials General George Washington faced on his way to victory in the American Revolution: Men were deserting the Conti-nental Army at a frightening rate. They were not cowards but dispirited men, sick and cold, and hungry, who had fought to their limit and could fight no more
The Militia leave us the minute their times are up and would not stay tho their eternal salvation was to be forfeited The American cause reached rock bottom in December 1776; no hours were ever darker, no prospects ever dimmer.
But, following decisive battles (across the Dela-ware,) the Continental Army showed the world that it could not only fight but win As the war reached its seventh year, Washington had not half the troops he counted on yet he held the American army together, bore adversity without becoming discouraged and, ultimately, he, his army, and American independence prevailed (200 Years, ibid).
The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace we cant make it stick Friend and foe alike look you accusingly in the face, disappointed in you Never has American prestige in Europe been lower Instead of coming in with a bold plan of relief and reconstruction, we come in full of evasions and apologies Europeans feel the cure is worse than the disease. The taste of victory has gone sour in the mouth of every thoughtful Ameri-can I meet (Life Magazine, Jan. 7, 1946, following World War II, a war in which Americans united proudly behind two presidents, and won.)
Another European reaction to U.S. liberators, 48 years after World War II, in the words of one of the liberated: How good if the Iraqis could get free of Saddam Hussein by themselves The Italians, in fact, could (only) get free of Mussolini in 1945 because the Allies had conquered almost 4/5 of Italy. In other words, because the Second World War had taken place, a war without which we would have kept Mussolini, and likely Hitler, forever a war in which, in less than two years, 45,806 Americans died, that number raised to 221,484 by wars end There are more than 60 Allied war cemeteries in Italy alone, but the largest and most crowded are the American ones.
Each time I pass in front of the cemetery at Falciani, near Florence, and see that lake of crosses, I shiver with grief and gratitude I know war very well. I know what it means to live in terror I was myself a soldier. (Oriana Fallaci, soldier, war correspondent, and author of The Rage and the Pride, 2002.)
Just as Americans on Thanksgiving Day, 2003, or any year, give thanks for what God and others have done for us, let us remember with justifiable pride those who would have little to be thankful for were it not for us.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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