Throughout our history, Americans have benefited from the extraordinary riches and resources of the wealthy land in which we live. Compared to any other country on earth, Americans enjoy more fertile farmland, better internal communications by water, rich and diverse mineral resources, a more favorable climate, a more favorable position in the world’s commerce, and friendlier neighbors: our home truly flows with milk and honey.
On this Thanksgiving Day we should reflect in gratitude for the abundance that shaped us as a people and still flows for us today, and see how yet again we are poised to enjoy new blessings in the time ahead.
For this is a Thanksgiving on which America’s energy future is looking suddenly brighter: it turns out our continent has quite a bit more oil and natural gas than we thought. In the US itself, vast and formerly inaccessible reserves of oil and natural gas are coming on line thanks to new technologies. Environmental challenges remain as we learn to use these technologies more effectively and with less damage, but these are the kinds of challenges Americans have repeatedly solved.
And the new energy abundance isn’t restricted to our own soil. Canada’s tar sands are second only to Saudi Arabia as an energy reserve; Brazil may be even richer in oil than Venezuela. Our country is becoming less dependent on the Middle East all the time. From the Financial Times:
Already, imports have fallen to 46 per cent of America’s consumption – down from 60 per cent in George W. Bush’s second term. That number is likely to keep falling. Less than a fifth of the US’s oil now comes from outside the western hemisphere. That could dwindle to negligible levels in the near future. “The Middle East will figure less in America’s energy supply and become increasingly critical to China and India,” says Mr Yergin. “This is likely to have big geopolitical repercussions.
The political and social ramifications of these windfalls are profound. Waves of “brown jobs” in places like Ohio, Michigan and upstate New York can give the Rust Belt another chance and provide new generations of middle class jobs for hardworking Americans. Americans will be less dependent on the whims of dictators and foreign kings; less of our wealth will flow to the Middle East and more of our trade will be with neighbors as the western hemisphere becomes a richer and more integrated place. Canada and Brazil, two democratic countries with a history of good relations with the US and who share many of our values and hopes, will play a larger role in the world.
Last week, America reshaped Asia. This week, oil seems to gush everywhere we tread. It is Thanksgiving time once again in America.
As always, Americans face the tasks of using our natural resources in ways that give help to the hapless and opportunities to all, and of acting responsibly and constructively in the wider world. Neither of these jobs is easy, and we have often failed at both. Thanksgiving must always be a little bitter-sweet as we reflect on the sad gap between the abundance of our blessings and the inadequacy of our response.
We should never forget that the natural abundance that surrounds us is only one of the blessings that has attended our development as a people. The culture of liberty that formed us, a unique blend of deep faith in God, deep love of liberty, and a respect for a diversity and plurality of faiths, is perhaps the greatest blessing we enjoy. Without deep faith that is widely spread among the population, no people can long be virtuous and patriotic enough to survive the storms of world history and maintain a democratic republican government. But too often deep faith is tinged with bigotry and intolerance. In much of history, in Europe and elsewhere, faith leads to persecution, heresy-hunting, religious violence and theocracy.
In American history, as in only a handful of countries around the world, we see something else: religious faith that embraces liberty, believes that respecting the conscience of others is God’s will, and is open to the future and to change while remaining deeply rooted in the past and in eternal and unchanging truths.
That culture, more than our fertile topsoil and the mineral and energy riches of the land that we live in, has made us strong and rich and free. Cultivating the culture of liberty, passing it on to our children, and sharing it with the new immigrants and arrivals who are enriching us as a people by their hard work, their talents and their love of a land that has given them new hope is how we can maintain and hand on the great blessings we have received.
This day of Thanksgiving has its part in that culture of liberty and over the generations the celebration of this day in which we give thanks to the Author of our freedom and the Source of our prosperity is one of the ways in which new waves of immigrants have become of our national family. As immigrant families begin to make Thanksgiving celebrations part of their family rituals, they make their families part of a nation. Thanksgiving isn’t just a day on which Americans celebrate their past; it is a celebration that helps to build our future.
Americans have celebrated Thanksgivings in hard times before. In wars and depressions we have remembered our blessings even as we hoped and prayed for better times to come. And the better times do come. Ten years ago we gave thanks even as the smoke from the World Trade Center still hung over New York; seventy years ago our grandparents and great grandparents gave thanks under the shadow of a terrible war that was even then reaching out to engulf them. Eighty years ago they gave thanks in the depths of the Depression.
Through it all, the culture of liberty, the wealth of our homeland and the blessings of providence sustained us. They sustain us still. This home of ours remains uniquely blessed, uniquely rich, uniquely free. Today we celebrate and renew those blessings from one end of the country to the other, conscious that the God who planted us here continues to enrich and bless us beyond anything we deserve.
Happy Thanksgiving to Via Meadia readers.