By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
It’s time to give thanks.
That’s right, even when the country has embarrassed itself on a grand scale, it is worth remembering that we have plenty for which to be thankful. And even in Alabama, where poor economic planning and a lack of emphasis on and funding for education have left us worse off than most, almost all of us are still far better off than so, so many.
Simply having a roof over your head and heated or cooled air makes you more fortunate than 70 percent of the people in the world.
When you lean back in your chair and unbutton your pants after Thanksgiving dinner, you should keep in mind that you are more fortunate than the half-billion people around the world struggling with severe hunger.
And we should remember, as we whine about how much help America provides to other countries, that an estimated 161 million children under the age 5 are suffering from hunger so severe that it has stunted their normal growth.
Even worse: UNICEF estimates that nearly 22,000 of those children die every day – most of them in faraway villages, where clean water and health care are scarce.
In many of those same villages, and in many more developed countries around the world, racism, bigotry and intolerance are all much worse than in Alabama. There is no such thing as religious freedom in most of those places.
And they are mostly miserable, war-torn and lacking of modern conveniences because of those human rights failures.
Whenever equal rights aren’t the reality, the reality is never good.
It’s a lesson this country’s founders brought with them, and it’s one they instilled in our government and laws.
It also is one they and we have forgotten several times over the course of this country’s short life – when dealing with slavery, when dealing with Native Americans, when dealing with Japanese-Americans, when dealing Muslims today.
For as much prosperity and joy that our tolerance has brought, our failures to honor the promises of equal rights and freedoms have cost us dearly.
And like the countries where equal rights aren’t the goal, we are still paying for past transgressions and adding debt for each new one.
That is why I spend so much time in my columns drawing attention to these failures, and begging for us – myself included – to try and do better.
Because the fact is we have it pretty good in Alabama, and in most of America. But that didn’t happen by accident, by mere chance.
It happened because smart men and women took a critical look at their personal failures and drew from the discrimination that they experienced and realized that an ounce of compassion was worth a pound of condemnation. And those people worked to make this country better.
By passing laws. By protesting. By marching. By volunteering. By donating. By devoting their lives.
It is why welfare programs that have helped pull so many out of poverty even exist. It is why laws against discrimination are on the books, making it possible for this country to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce. It is why religious tests will never be tolerated by the masses, regardless of what the new president wants, because we are smart enough now to know just how much war and strife that freedom has prevented.
These things are what has made America great since its founding.
That doesn’t mean this country has always been good, has always been on the right side of history, has always stood for equality, has always been that shining beacon on the hill.
But it has always been filled with people who aspire to those lofty goals, who kept pushing when the odds seemed overwhelming, who demanded change in the face of anger, who stood up to the bullies and fought the status quo and pushed back against the mob.
They have done so on battlefields, on a bridge, in courtrooms across the country, in segregated diners and schools, in internment camps, on reservations, in discriminatory workplaces, in Congress and on the streets.
Those people are still here.
And for them, and the great country they have helped build, we should all be thankful.