Hi. I make a habit of reading the Op-Ed pages of the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal day by day. I love those pages. I got started in journalism by writing for them, pieces in defense of Richard Nixon, whom I still love, by the way. I learn a lot from them on some days.
But, what I notice about the op-eds is that they are almost always complaining about something: race relations, economics, sexual oppression in the Times and lack of a free market and excess taxes and regulation in the Wall Street Journal. To me, this totally misses the whole point of life in America and I can summarize it in a moment.
Many years ago, I said to my Dad, “Pop, it occurs to me that we Jews live better in America than Jews ever have anywhere and at any time in history.”
My Pop, a genuinely wise man, said, “Benjy, that’s the whole point of America. Jews, Irish, Blacks, Polish, Italians, Asians… we all live better here than anywhere else in the history of mankind. That’s the story of America.”
How right he was. I awaken every morning and think of all the bills I have to pay and all of the years I have crossed off the calendar, and I hear my wife’s cough, and I feel terrified. And then I think that I live in America, where everything is possible. I do not have the Cossacks coming to beat me to death for being a Jew. I don’t have the Gestapo rounding me up for being a Jew. I am not being hunted and chased down by anyone but myself.
And this is what occurs to me about race and oppression in America. Yes, we have severe problems. Yes, sometimes the problems are with the police — but very, very rarely. Our society is in fact so much better, more forgiving, more loving than any other large nation has ever been that it is not even close.
Yes, we have had problems with racism, and when I was a child, I was called a “kike” a few too many times for comfort. Yes, my family could not live where we wanted to love because of legal discrimination in housing.
Yes, horrible repression of blacks was a commonplace for far too long. Blacks have reason to be angry if they consider the past and even the present.
But the progress that has been made, just in my lifetime, has been breathtaking, for blacks, for Jews, for women, for everyone. Just in the last fifty years, the progress towards equality of opportunity has been glorious, has been magical. Let’s remember that.
Let us spend this season of the Prince of Peace not complaining, but exalting in the miles we have traveled towards human dignity. We are not considered the light of the world for nothing. And, as a Jew, whose people were horribly persecuted for millennia, as I look at my sleeping dogs and my tranquil lawn at this joyful season, I marvel at just how blessed my family and I are.
I am not rich by Warren Buffett, private jet standards and never will be. But to wake up near my dogs and my wife in peace — that is wealth enough for me. If we as Americans look at the bright side, we are all set.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
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