So, a few days ago was my 73rd birthday. I spent it in Rancho Mirage, near Palm Springs, with my wife and our dog, Julie, and my wife’s nurse, Gemma. I swam twice each day, on my back, looking up at the day and night sky through the palm fronds and this is what I thought: Life in America has improved so much since I was born, life in this world has improved so much since I was born that it’s almost unbelievable.
When I was born, Hitler was still ruling much of Europe. Close to 10,000 Jews a day were being killed by the Nazis. The worst crimes in history, the Soviet mass killings and the Holocaust, were still raging. That’s all over now. There were killings by the tens of millions in China, too, when the Communists took over, and that was when I was a child. That’s all over now. Germany is one of the most free countries on earth. There is no more USSR. Russia has serious problems, but it’s nothing like the killing field it was. China is now an industrial powerhouse whose people eat better and live better than could have been imagined even forty years ago, all thanks to a small measure of freedom and an immense measure of capitalism. The people and nations of Southeast Asia, after a series of horror shows, are booming, becoming industrial and high tech powerhouses, too.
Freedom and prosperity have made the greatest advances of all time, just in my lifetime… all patterned after our own America.
Here at home, when I was a lad in Maryland, the schools were segregated by race. That was the law. That’s all gone now. Housing was rigidly segregated by race and we Jews and blacks and Asians could not live in the best neighborhoods or even in pretty good neighborhoods. That’s all ancient history and all of those ’hoods that used to have only white Gentiles are now open to anyone who has the money to buy.
The workplace was segregated by race and gender as well. Females and Jews and blacks and Asians need not apply to work at the top drawer banks and law firms and insurance companies and ad agencies and manufacturers. Those were for white Christian men only. That’s all changed now, too. Law firms recruit on talent and willingness to work and so do banks and insurers and everyone else. There is still sexism, as we all know, but it’s nothing like the closed doors we had when I was a child and a young man.
There are still pockets of extreme misconduct against women, as we are seeing, but these are no longer swept under the rug. They are aired out and the disinfectant of sunlight and responsibility applied.
In a word, this has become a far freer and more open America — not to mention an incomparably richer America, maybe four times richer per capita, than it was when I was born, in a world that is incomparably brighter than it was in 1944 when I was born.
These are miraculous changes and as I look up at the night sky over the desert, I can only shake my head over the age of miracles in which I have been privileged to live. God bless America. We can never say it enough.