Every Thanksgiving prominent newspapers across the country excoriate our history in an act of self-flagellation: educating, or rather re-educating, Americans on its past misdeeds. Indeed, America’s resurgent Left has sought to torment the nation in an effort to undercut the core traditions and mores of Western civilization. Thanksgiving is one of those traditions. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Before deconstructing Thanksgiving, here is some food for thought from someone who has lived in a socialist utopia with which the Left is enthralled
There is a sense among a growing number of us that socialism sounds great. Many believe that a centralized economic system guarantees a basic level of dignity. However, socialism in practice, which I experienced firsthand while growing up in India, was just the opposite. It was devoid of dignity. In a time when “lived experience” is the barometer for truth and reality, the daily existence of the most poor and vulnerable in society is dramatically different in a socialist country.
In a time when ‘lived experience’ is the barometer for truth and reality, the daily existence of the most poor and vulnerable in society is dramatically different in a socialist country.
Just look at the most basic appliances American capitalism produced that, when contrasted with the Indian experience, make for a bleak lived experience:
Washing machines: Most poor Indians don’t have a mechanical device churning numerous pieces of clothing with various settings for the type of material being washed. No — they use their hands to toss and beat each individual piece, taking hours to get through a “load of laundry.” It is mostly women who do this grueling work.
Microwave ovens: Families mired in poverty often use clay and cow manure to manufacture homemade ovens on which they cook their meals. To this day, microwave ovens are a luxury of the rich and the upper-middle class in India. Again, women are often compromised in this lack of material progress, spending hours in the kitchen without air-conditioning in a country where 110 or 120 degree weather is not uncommon.
Automobiles: In a country with 1.3 billion people, only 39 million own a car — that is 30 per 1,000 people. In America, that number stands at 850 per 1000 people, and a total of 272 million privately owned cars! Having an automobile dramatically changes a person’s prospects, with the ability to search for jobs or activities farther from home becoming a possibility.
In America, these technological innovations are extremely basic forms of material prosperity — many of us will be driving to relatives, reheating Thanksgiving meals in the microwave, and washing holiday clothes and table-settings without a second thought. The ubiquity of these blessings obfuscates the privilege of being American. Yet, these basic forms of dignity are rare or nearly unattainable for the poor in socialist countries.
Nonetheless, a conversation around material prosperity is an incomplete one, because it is merely a signpost to something much deeper and meaningful. It speaks to the fabric of Western civilization, and in particular, to the American experiment, which creates the wonders we experience every day.
It speaks to the fabric of Western civilization, and in particular, to the American experiment, which creates the wonders we experience every day.
The ideas of individual liberty, rule of law and free enterprise are unique concepts that took humanity past looting, pillaging, and conquering, to living in peaceful community despite our differences. These ideas gave rise to institutions that maintain civil society, to philanthropy and charity, and of course, to capitalism. These ideas, at the heart of the American experiment, have not only resulted in a dramatic reduction in poverty in America, but across the world, including in my home country.
So, this Thanksgiving, rather than watering down the meaning of this day let us instead be thankful for the gift America has given to mankind. Happy Thanksgiving!
Abhi Samuel is the Director of Entrepreneur Engagement at Commonwealth Partners, an O.V. Catto Fellow, and a dad. Having grown up in a socialist nation, he believes free markets and limited government are the greatest poverty eradication programs known to man.