by Rod D. Martin
November 24, 2004

As of this writing, on the heels of their stunning Fallujah victory, U.S. forces in Iraq have launched Operation Plymouth Rock to clean out terrorist and Saddamite strongholds throughout the Sunni Triangle.

The operation’s name is of course a reference to our first Thanksgiving holiday.

From the Mayflower Compact to the Bible-based notion of rule of law, the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620 sowed the seeds for our modern American democracy. The hope is that Operation Plymouth Rock and other operations will give Iraqis room to chart a similar course in the direction of representative government and liberty.

If they do, that will be yet another milestone in the spread of freedom and another blessing for which to be thankful.

This Thanksgiving, we indeed have plenty for which to be grateful.

For starters, since September 11, 2001, there has not been a single terrorist attack on American soil.

As of September 12, who would have predicted that? Nobody.

But that’s not half the story.

Since that day of infamy, we have evicted Bin Laden and the Taliban from Afghanistan, enabled that country’s first free election ever, deposed Saddam in a lightning-swift war, proceeded to steer Iraq towards its own January elections, killed or captured most of the al Qaeda leadership, and sufficiently frightened Libya’s terrorist dictator Khaddafi to hand over his nuclear weapons program to us — it now resides in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Today, we are bringing the combined weight of all North Korea’s neighbors into the effort against its WMDs, and, having completely surrounded Iran, we are “helping” it decide whether its reckless pursuit of nuclear capabilities is truly worth risking war.

So let us be grateful to God for our armed forces, our intelligence services, and, yes, for President George W. Bush, not only for keeping us safe since 9/11, but for taking the fight to the enemy, while giving people in the darkest corners of the globe a fighting chance for freedom, and for peace.

We can be thankful as well for our unrivaled economic strength. Despite the Nasdaq crash of 2000, the recession of 2001, the 9/11 atrocities, and steeply rising oil prices, our economy has bounded through it all. With the strongest economic growth in twenty years, inflation remains tame, unemployment is lower than the average throughout the 1980s and 1990s, productivity continues to rise smartly, and homeownership is at its all-time high. Even the deficit hawks will admit that, as a percentage of GDP, our budget deficit is as low as or lower than that of our European counterparts, who are sinking into a deflationary morass to match their demographic, cultural and moral decline.

We have much to be grateful for on that note as well.

In the late 1960s, our society began a gut-wrenching moral decline touching every one of our institutions, including and especially the family. As every form of social pathology, from crime and drugs to abortion and unwed pregnancies, rose precipitously, the question was whether America was on the verge of social collapse.

Today, the answer is clear. With each of the problems just noted in marked, long-term decline, we’re still digging out from the terrible legacy of the 1960s, but clearly, we are finally heading in the right direction. Indeed, some observers speak of a new Great Awakening impacting the nation, especially through our evangelical churches. And from the taking back of the Southern Baptist Convention from its leftist captors to the repudiation of moral relativism in the 2004 elections, that awakening is clearly reaching out from our homes into even our greatest institutions.

For this, we can give thanks to a God who has quite obviously not forsaken us.

Indeed, one does not have to be an American to note that there is something blessedly unique about this land and its people.

Tocqueville noted it back in the 1830s. The French aristocrat felt compelled to write his epic “Democracy in America” in part to explain the exceptionalism of America.

What Tocqueville described was “a nation that runs by itself.” Its people were morally and politically self-reliant and self-governing. Its churches were vibrant, but unlike in Europe there was no state church, and hence no conflict between religion and democracy. Its government didn’t take the lead in helping the needy, but its people gave freely of themselves, forming and breathing life into every sort of charitable work under Heaven.

To this day, much of what Tocqueville saw still abounds. America remains unique, what John Winthrop and the Puritans called “a city on a hill” — a blessing not only to itself but to the world.

For that, the world should be thankful. But don’t expect it to be.

It is enough that on this Thanksgiving, we are thankful for America, for Americans, and for the God who made them both.