A few days ago, I was in a small but cheerful hotel room in downtown Chicago. I had just flown in from L.A. and had dinner with John Coyne, a dear friend from Nixon days, so I was in a great mood. As the air conditioning whirred around me, because Chicago was having a strange February heat wave, I thought this:
“Look at you, Benjy. You’re an old Jewish man now. You’re 72. Your family probably originated in Israel, but then for centuries wandered around North Africa and what is now Iraq, and then was kicked from pillar to post in Italy and Spain and then in Central Europe. Then probably for six hundred years, your ancestors lived in ragged cabins, if that, in eastern Europe. Your ancestors lived in constant fear that they could be tortured and murdered just for being Jews. They probably were hungry much of the time, suffered from cold and heat, from tuberculosis and every kind of disease. They lived marginal, sub-human lives.
“Then, your great grandparents made the decision to come to America. That was in about 1880. And then, in the blink of an eye by historical time, your father was in the Cabinet of two Presidents. You got to live in one of the most pleasant places on this earth, Southern California.
“You get to have more food than you can possibly eat. You get a roof over your head and air-conditioning. You don’t have to walk on muddy paths covered with horse droppings. You get to ride in a car in perfect comfort.
“You get your beautiful, kind, forgiving wife. Most of all, you get the full protection of the law. No one can kill you just for being a Jew. No one can even fire you from your job for being a Jew — which could happen even when you, Benjy, were a young man. You are in this hotel room and it’s 2 in the morning and you can order fresh hot popcorn with butter and you can know you have as much legal protection as Donald Trump or Barack Obama. And so does every other American. Benjy, thanks to the United States of America, you can worship God as you see fit. You can vote as you see fit. You can talk as you wish. You are in the Garden of Eden. You are in paradise.
“And thanks to a great thing called free market capitalism, you can accrue capital and it can protect you when you’re old and help to provide for your granddaughter.
“You are in heaven, and it’s spelled AMERICA.”
I thought of all that, and I got on my knees and thanked God, and then I got back in bed and slept the sleep of the children of God.
The media can complain all they want. They can say all the nasty things they want about heaven, but it’s still heaven and it’s called the USA. It may be Trump’s USA or Obama’s USA. It’s still the best place there’s ever been. Our beloved, shining America.