I had always planned to be a historian and I still spend much of my time reading history. When I do, I am struck by a few dramatic truths.
The first is that life in America, at least right now, at least for most of us, is simply great. I’m reading a book about “Hitler’s Central European Empire” by a recently deceased historian named Jean Sedlar. She writes in great detail about the horrifying brutality in the region from Finland down to the Balkans in the period roughly from the late 1930s to the end of World War II.
Every ethnic group at war with every other ethnic group. Every nationality wanting to kill their neighbors. Two totalitarian states, the Soviet Union and The Third Reich crushing everyone in their path.
The suffering of untold millions, the gruesome living conditions, the fighting, the fleeing, the hiding, the starving, and the dying just went on endlessly. There was no end of pain from the Baltic to the Adriatic.
As we saw much more recently in the wars in the former Yugoslavia, that kind of ethnic and religious hatred persists to this day.
When I read about this, or read about the torment of my fellow Jews even in a supposedly highly civilized nation like France in World War II or about the staggering viciousness in the drug trade in Mexico right now, or the endless civil wars and mineral wars in Africa, my head reels at the cruelty of man to man.
Then my wife and I take our dogs out for a walk in our neighborhood in Los Angeles and the lawns are green and the birdies are singing and soon we will have some French toast — and life is great. No wars, no ethnic hatreds, pretty much everyone accepted and taken at face value as a fellow citizen, brother and sister.
I mention this because I am like you. I worry constantly. About my son and his family. About getting older. About the hideously ugly house someone is putting up across the street from me. About the ‘flu.
But when I think about our lives in America right now, and compare them with what life is like and has been like for so many hundreds or millions — no,
Billions — of human beings, I cannot help but feel as if God had shone a special privilege and blessing upon America.
I know this is not allowed and it’s called American exceptionalism and it’s academic poison. But it’s true. God really has blessed this glorious land, from sea to shining sea, and compared with the privilege of living here in 2013, no problem I have right now means much. What glory to live here.
Thank you, God, thank you.