(Nov. 26) Conservative intellectual giant William F. Buckley once lamented that too many Westerners “accept without any thought the patrimony we all enjoy,” and he wrote a wonderful little book called Gratitude about the need to show thanks by giving back to this country for the blessings it has bestowed on us.

“A country — a civilization — that gives us such gifts as we dispose of cannot be repaid in kind,” he said in a related speech. Yet, he said 32 years ago Nov. 29, ingratitude for American blessings, including “the freedoms activated by the Bill of Rights,” is a “near universal offense.”

Since 1988, the ingratitude has grown only worse, while recognition of U.S. claims to special virtue has plummeted. This summer, only 60% of those polled said they believe that the United States is even “one of the greatest” nations on Earth, with only 32% calling it the greatest. When someone doesn’t even think he or she is blessed, it’s a lot more difficult for that person to be thankful.

Well, we should be thankful. Buckley was right. And it was fitting that Buckley’s 1988 speech was given at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. Each Thanksgiving Day, we celebrate and reenact in spirit, at least nominally, the festivities undertaken in 1621 by the people who landed in North America aboard the Mayflower ship in the previous late autumn. Those men, women, and children, approximately 100 of them, had created and signed 400 years ago last weekend the Mayflower Compact that stands as one of the great advances in all of human self-governance.

Yet in the intervening winter, a full half of those Mayflower passengers, including more than three-fourths of the women, died in the harsh conditions. Even shortly after the “first Thanksgiving” a year after the landing, a visiting traveler named William Hilton found the settlers “sick and weak, with very small means.” Still, having lost half of the Mayflower’s passengers in one year and remaining “weak” in Hilton’s eyes, the survivors found within themselves a sense of gratitude that should inspire us 399 autumns later….

[The full column is at this link.]


Tags: , , ,