While I'm no fan of how America came about -- entitled white Pilgrims robbing the Native Americans of their land, their liberty, and their lives -- I am a huge fan of my country as it is today. And I'm sure you are too.
Yet, nearly every day we engage in activities, from big to small, that we all take for granted. We call President Bush/Obama/Fill in the blank an "idiot" (or worse). We send our children -- sons and daughters -- to school (and grumble about education today). We women are free to drive cars (and free to complain about all the carpooling we do). We let our baby girls live (even when we secretly hoped for a boy). We pray the way we want to -- or even not at all.
We wear nail polish.
We don't wake up every morning wondering if today will be the day it's our child's turn to step on a landmine or our husband's turn to be jailed for speaking up about injustice or our daughter's turn to be legally gang raped by her uncles.
What did we do to deserve this American life?
Not a heck of a lot.
It's nothing but dumb luck that we were born in the United States and not someplace else. Dumb. Luck. So this Thanksgiving, let's be thankful we were lucky enough not to be born somewhere else. Thankful we don't have to plan our escape, enter a lottery, or risk our lives to make a better one for our families, only to be given the cold shoulder by people who were quite simply, a hell of a lot luckier than us.
- Be thankful you're not a rape victim in Afghanistan. A 21-year-old woman there was attacked by a relative 2 years ago and didn't report the rape because it would "bring shame on her community." Unfortunately, "Gulnaz" became pregnant so she did tell authorities about the rape 4 months after the attack, and was subsequently jailed for 12 years for committing adultery. Her only out? To marry her attacker. She refused and remains in prison with her baby. After lots of international attention, Afghan prosecuters just reduced her sentence to 3 years -- for "not reporting her attack fast enough."
- Be thankful you and your friends can freely insult the President (and any other politician) and not go to jail. That's not the case in Thailand, where a 61-year-old man suffering from cancer was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sending text messages that insulted the Thai royal family.
- Be thankful U.S. leaders don't go around torturing and killing citizens in the name of "patriotism." Nuon Chea, a high-ranking Khmer Rouge leader -- accused in the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodian citizens (one point seven million of the country's citizens) -- just defended the horrific events that took place during the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror. Of the sick murderers and torturers (who did things like beat 2-year-olds to death against trees and shoot babies after tossing them into the air), Chea said, "'I would like to pay my respects to our ancestors who sacrificed their flesh, blood, bone and life to defend our motherland."
- Be thankful your children aren't being recruited as war soldiers and forced to do unthinkable things, forced to work in inhumane conditions, or sold into sex slavery as were -- and are -- children in Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast, Brazil, and Thailand, among other places.
I'm glad I was lucky enough to be born in America. Are you?
Image via brittanylynae/Flickr