What am I thankful for?

At 64 years of age, I have much to be thankful for.  I recently had a coronary catheterization, which demonstrated healthy coronary arteries.  I have a wonderful wife and daughter.  I have been able to put money away from dental practice for my approaching retirement.  I have had tremendous help throughout the years from friends and relatives.  I live in a small metropolitan area where I have volunteered in my community, secular and religious.  I have made friends and acquaintances from these activities whom I cherish.

This week, I finished reading Bill O'Reilly's Killing the Rising Sun on Thanksgiving Day.  It brought out memories of my father, my mother, and the connection that I share with O'Reilly.  My father was a belly gunner in a B-17.  He had sinus and balance issues, which I also have, and was grounded as a result.  His plane went down, and he would not have survived in the Pacific theater had he stayed aboard.  I would not be here today. 

But as O'Reilly believes, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and the larger plutonium bomb loosened toward Nagasaki may have saved upwards of 500,000 to 1,000,000 American soldiers and countless Japanese; in the event of the planned land invasion of the Japanese mainland injuries, death and dislocations would have exceeded earliest estimates.  My father would have been at risk again as a member of the invasion forces that General MacArthur had planned to have attack through the southern Japanese islands, northward toward Tokyo.

It is fashionable for revisionist historians today to find any fault academics can demonstrate of the ethical inferiority of the United States.  This lines up well with socialist and Marxist thinking that became popular in our great educational institutions, helped through the work of people such as Howard Zinn, who taught at Boston University.  He claimed that the dominant Caucasian USA society caused the intentional deaths of native Americans (through smallpox given knowingly and needless warfare); that we stole the southeastern territories from the Latin Americans of Mexico; that we plundered the natural resources of colonial territories in Africa, Asia, and South America; and that we continue to abuse our power and wealth through environmental degradation. 

People question the decision to use a nuclear fission bomb.  This negates the severe destruction brought about by the bellicose Japanese government of that era.  The rape of China, Korea, and the Philippines cannot be forgotten.  The needless torture of American and British soldiers, along with prisoners from Australia and New Zealand, is barely mentioned today. 

The death of Japanese innocents from nuclear weaponry is a sad chapter in the story of humanity.  But the deaths from conventional and napalm bombs dropped for months on Japanese cities dwarfs the civilian destruction wrought on those of Dresden in the closing days of the war with Germany.  Death of civilians is just as final, no matter the method.

But American ingenuity and entrepreneurial skill have provided the world with many innovations that have benefited many.  The victory of Western allies unleashed a period of positive human endeavors not seen in two millennia.  

Until WWII, Germany was an unequaled scientific innovator and researcher.  The use of this brilliance for evil resulted in a loss of dominance following the destruction of its capacity in 1945.  Communism and its spread further weakened creative efforts as the county was divided behind an "iron curtain."  Clearly, autocratic (fascist, monarchist, or communist) rule has some limitations for freedom of thought and creativity.  For a while, it allows unified action, but with time the stench of restriction undergirds stale ways that reduce innovation.

Today, we see many of the Hong Kong population seeking freedom while waving American flags and resisting Beijing's order.  In Iraq, opposition has caused the end of the prime minister's reign.  Now resistance is surfacing in Iran.  We have yet to see the conclusion of these efforts, but they remind us of the time 80 years ago when the world was ablaze in Asia, Africa, and Europe.  Sadly, it is not far apart in time between such eruptions.  America can still provide a beacon of hope for others yearning to remove shackles of oppressive governmental control.

Thanks to modern technology, I am alive.  I have a pacemaker that keeps my electrically blocked heart beating.  The research for such inventions as PET scans, CT scanners, MRI imagers, and sonograms used in my diagnoses is expensive and cannot be guaranteed by reducing funds.  Only the private sector ensures the innovation and effort needed to solve such problems, with assistance from government funding.  Our private medical insurance system provides greater funding per treatment than the Medicaid or Medicare systems, ensuring that we have facilities that can offer advanced care in a timely fashion.  As we push medical care toward institutional basis, we dehumanize patients and lengthen the waiting periods.  This will result in further ill-outcomes.  And this is without socialized single payer health care which will worsen the process, by restricting patient choices.

My health care costs have skyrocketed since Obama Care emerged in 2010.  I wait longer for appointments and have to see nurse practitioners more often.  But I still have some private choices.  While travelling with my daughter in Portugal, she needed medical attention.  We were advised to seek private care instead of public since we would likely wait overnight and might not get full treatment.  I gladly paid the amounts requested since we were satisfactorily treated within 2 hours.  Many Americans would prefer the free option despite a poor result.  I am thankful that I recognize the difference.

As I contemplate the vastness of our universe, I am grateful that I was born in this era.  Life expectancy is 30 years greater than only 100 years ago; it is more than double the length of 1000 years ago.  We deal with drug addiction, criminals, murder, and family dissolution but all of these problems can be surmounted with sufficient societal desire and concentrated will.          

I am thankful that I live in a country where that is possible.  With some humility it will come to pass within my lifetime. While I appreciate an equality of opportunity (which is an ideal), I do not desire an equality of outcome which would restrict my chances for advancement.   A world with opportunity for people to reach their potential is a goal.  In the USA a great portion of the population can reach that goal.  For this I am extremely thankful.

Photo credit: Roger Sayles.

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