Pre-shopping pause to give thanks

Let the Christmas shopping begin!

As a certified Grinch, I’ve been monitoring the ever-creeping start date to the Christmas season. In most stores, the Halloween candy is barely out the door before it’s red-and-green everywhere.

I understand the need to get into the spirit, but seriously, Sunny 106.5-FM, do we really need all Christmas, all the time, before I’ve tasted my first forkful of turkey? Does no one any longer respect the traditional start of the season, the day after Thanksgiving?

Of course, this is what we’d classify as a first-world problem, something most people across the globe would gladly trade everything they own for. It’s also why we should take a minute to be thankful for what we have before we rush into stores that have been open since midnight.

The other night, as Republican candidates debated immigration policy and Newt Gingrich rolled the dice on being accused of backing “amnesty,” nobody paused to consider a key fact: People literally risk their lives for a chance to get to America. They come on makeshift rafts across the Caribbean Sea, they trudge through dark deserts under cover of darkness, they contort themselves into tiny improvised compartments in smuggler’s cars, all for a chance to live and work in the United States.

For all that we’ve done wrong, we’ve got to be doing something right if people want into America that badly.

Yes, our government can be dysfunctional, our leaders able to agree on hardly anything. Our politics is divisive and bitter and increasingly characterized by rage instead of reason. Party labels mark our fellow citizens as enemies.

But for all of that, we’re fighting over how best to govern a nation where we’re free to live where we want, to choose the profession we want and to succeed as far as our abilities, ambition and imagination can take us.

None of that came free, or easy. Men and women risked their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to forge that idea into a nation, in places such as Valley Forge, Lexington and Concord, to keep it together in places such as Bull Run and Gettsyburg, to protect it from foreign aggression in places such as Normandy, Bastogne, Iwo Jima, Midway and Guadalcanal. They struggle to deny our modern enemies a foothold in Afghanistan even as you read this.

Compared to the people who fought and died in those places, pretty much all of our problems are first-world problems.

For all the griping about our government — and I do more than my fair share — the fact remains that it works. It’s slow, clumsy and hard to change, but that system of divided powers and checks and balances committed to paper 214 years ago still endures. We argue over the fundamental question of what our government is for, and how much or how little it should do. But we do it with more freedom than anywhere else in the world.

In other countries, a change of leadership is often occasioned by bloody demonstrations or outright war. Dictators keep a tight grip on power, and the price of dissent may be your life.

Here, we change power bloodlessly every two or four years, with peaceful elections. As much as the party on the outs likes to call the president a dictator, there’s really no such thing in America.

All in all, we’ve got it pretty good. And while we tend to forget that during the year, now’s the time to pause and consider what we have, to thank those whose sacrifices helped us get it, and to commit to acting in a way that redeems their suffering.  

And with that, let the shopping begin.


Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist, and author of the blog Follow him on Twitter at or reach him at (702) 387-5276 or


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