The night before Americans sat down to watch Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and gather around the table for turkey and dressing, I stood in the center of Main Street in Disney’s Magic Kingdom watching the breathtaking splendor of lasers, lights, and fireworks. The sea of electronic devices, held high above the heads of onlookers trying to capture the moment, gave testimony to the prosperity of those in attendance. However, what awed me most about the scene was the freedom of so many to participate in a gathering that in some places in the world would still be forbidden or at least closely monitored. Thankfully, that is not the case in America where such a simple freedom as packing and escaping on a family holiday anytime we choose is commonplace. Unfortunately, such freedoms are often taken for granted. We are so accustomed to living our lives with few restrictions that we sometimes forget that for many people in the world such freedoms are only a wish upon a star.
Although we have much to be thankful for in America, Americans are often guilty of running around like Chicken Little crying the sky is falling. We sometimes forget that regardless of real or perceived problems, America is an exceptional place to live. The celebration on Main Street, Disney reminded me that being an American is truly special and should not be taken lightly. But, too often, we lend an ear to politicians, the news media, conspiracy believers, and yes, even some preachers spouting scare tactics about the decline of America and how bad things are in our country. We forget they are respectively looking for votes, looking to expand their following, looking to give justification for their existence, and looking to fill the pews on Sunday. Let’s face reality; the credibility and survival of each of these groups depends on the attention they solicit to their cause. Negatively slanted news and talk of America’s decline are great recruiting tools for each of these groups. It is unfortunate, but in America, bad news sells, spurs action, and generates interest to a much higher degree than good news.
In contrast, Disney World is a place of never ending joy. It is a place where people can temporarily lay the negatives aside and believe all is positive and good. It is a place where the ability to BELIEVE is the key to the universe. Believing is at the center of Disney’s success, and as I stood watching the fireworks, it occurred to me that “believing” is also at the core to America’s success and prosperity. Beginning with Walt Disney and continuing today, the Disney nation is built on one simple word – BELIEVE. That simple word has built, nurtured, and maintained the greatest entertainment mega giant in the history of the world, and like Disney, that same simple word has also been the key to building the greatest nation the world has ever known – The United States of America.
Our forefathers dared to BELIEVE in freedom and their right to pursue happiness and liberty from an oppressive government, but most of all they dared to BELIEVE all men are created equal in the eyes of God. Lately however, Americans seem to have forgotten how to BELIEVE. Instead of believing in our country, it seems many Americans would rather wallow in degrading and blemishing our nation than believe and celebrate the many blessings that have been bestowed on our country. Sure, there are issues that need to be addressed, but to lump them all into one damning pot characterizing America as a “has been” is absolutely crazy. Even with our problems, America still stands heads and shoulders above any other country in the world.
Our biggest problem is that as a nation, we are spoiled. We are so spoiled by the freedom to say, do, and believe as we please that sometimes we take those freedoms for granted. Instead of being thankful and appreciative of the sacrifices that have been made to ensure those rights, we take on an air of entitlement. At times, we are even guilty of taking the sweat on our brows and the dirt under our fingernails for granted; we forget that a right as simple as providing for our families is not a protected right in many parts of the world. Like a spoiled child, we often overlook how good we really have it in The United States.
Being spoiled is a sign of prosperity, but even the spoiled must sometimes take a moment to be thankful for their buttered bread. As Americans, our bread has been buttered abundantly as was evident in the streets of Disney World this past Wednesday night. Our freedoms and privileges were even more apparent Thanksgiving Day as millions of Americans gathered to celebrate their blessings with family amid overloads of turkey and dressing. In this Thanksgiving season, we need to take a moment to thank God for our many blessings. It is time to take a break from bellyaching about our country and be thankful for the privilege to live here and be called Americans. Our founding fathers as well as visionaries such as Walt Disney knew there was magic in believing in who we are and what we stand for, and that without believing the magic soon fades away. It is time we put the magic back into America. It is time to be PROUD and BELIEVE in America once again!
May each of you have a joyous Thanksgiving season, and a glorious Christmas to come!
©Jack Linton, PhD November 29, 2015