Can Ingratitude Kill Democracy?

Can Ingratitude Kill Democracy?

By Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D.

Thanking our police officers is more important now than ever. When we are thankful, we exercise hope. We encourage good.  We expect things will get better as we celebrate what has been accomplished. When we thank a police officer for their service, we don’t have to assume there are no flaws in their character and no bad actors who wear a badge. But we celebrate those willing to serve and protect. We acknowledge the sacrifice they make away from family, away from regular hours and restful sleep, and away from peace of mind. We celebrate laws and leaders that hold lawbreakers accountable and the idealism that seeks to make that accountability real regardless of wealth or power. When we are thankful for first responders, we give thanks for a government that does what we could not do in isolation. That collectively we share in the provision of safety and protection for our neighbors

Every year the holiday of Thanksgiving is both revered and mocked. The skeptics and cynics emphasize that the first European settlers brought disease, war, and trespass to the natives who helped them. The pessimist sees the whole day as mythology. They want children to stop singing about it, and definitely don’t want them making construction paper pilgrim hats.

That America can declare a day of giving thanks in light of these critics says a lot about our nation. It does not say we are blind to history, it says that good things are often built around imperfect things. It does not say that we are unrepentant about injustice, it says we can see it with an eye toward being better, however painfully slow that might be. It says that in the midst of hardship and culture clashes we can build good things and celebrate them.

Americans optimistic about the future created a holiday about an event that only half of the settlers survived in those first harsh seasons. Lincoln proclaimed during a brutal Civil War that “It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.”

Our liberty is at risk because it seems a generation has lost its appreciation for it. Like villagers with torches and pitchforks threatening a misunderstood creature, naysayers attack our Constitutional republic as the reason for their discontent. The miracle of the founding documents is indeed stained by retention of slavery, a sin for which we continue to suffer, but in that same document lay the seeds of change. Accepting the proposition that all men are created equal has guided us toward greater equality.

The concept of being endowed by our Creator with inalienable natural rights that include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness has been twisted into an expectation that the government ensure and provide such happiness, not merely to keep government from obstructing that pursuit.

I am thankful for the ideas about liberty that were the foundation for the American Revolution. In pursuit of those ideals I am thankful for the processes that move us forward. Because of that gratitude, it grieves me to see credibility given to the deconstruction of those ideals so that we would even consider allowing the government the power to be the sole provider of our health, wealth, and shelter. What began as charity has become a right. Not like the rights endowed by our Creator, but rights created by government so that they can be removed or conditioned at will.

In this season of thanksgiving, I am grateful for my country and its turbulent history that makes us still the envy of those seeking freedom and opportunity. I’m grateful for those away from their homes and comforts in readiness to rescue me in times of desperation. Despite all of the challenges and all of the opposition to their calling, I am grateful for those holding that thin blue line.

Leave a Reply