Giving Thanks for Such a Great (albeit imperfect) Place to Live

Despite all the cynicism and bellyaching we often hear from all of the political, socioeconomic and ethnic aisles that make up this unique experiment, the United States of America is an extraordinary country and darn good place to live. Nothing reminded me more of this than the time when one of our colleagues, who lives in China, first ventured to Chicago's Chinatown and read a number of "dissident" Taiwanese papers available in the many markets. He expressed shock that "they could print such lies and rubbish." But the next time he visited Chicago less than a year later, he was actively seeking out the very same papers and told us his eyes had been widened to what freedom of speech actually meant.

There are likely millions of similar stories that have unfolded in the past year alone as the U.S. continues to show China, Russia and other great nations what it truly means to live in a free society. Granted, we face serious challenges today, including but not limited to the Occupy Wall Street participants who are emblematic of the "quantitative easing" which has occurred not just in economic policy but math education as well. This group can't seem to do the math to realize that the top 1% fund nearly all U.S. social programs, accounting for roughly 37% of all tax revenue. But overall, this is a society I'd rather take than leave. Even if most people on the bus can't keep up with the average eighth grade math curriculum in Singapore, at least we can spit our gum out without being caned.

I express this cynicism with a bit of irony, of course. But as a business owner in multiple countries, the irony only grows deeper. As it turns out, our corporate tax rate is higher in the US -- irony of ironies given what Thanksgiving represents in terms of living off the land and the good will of neighbors in a new world free of Great Britain -- than in the UK for our venture across the pond (despite a decent profit for our first year in business operating Spend Matters Europe, Ltd.). Aside from taxes and some quantitatively challenged demonstrators, what our country stands for today and what it represents is something to be extremely thankful for -- including the right to protest without impeding the freedom of others. Many parts of the world (including China) still don't have our autonomy of movement, let alone the choice to create a family of any size, and shape its destiny without a government or religious body mandating what is acceptable and what is not.

No doubt, what the United States represents in theory is often better than in practice. Witness slavery and the inequality for American women and blacks suffered throughout most of our country's history (not to mention Jews, Catholics and other groups that before recent decades, got the short end of the Founding Father's stick). Yet unlike most parts of the world, we've self-corrected through the continued interpretation -- and occasional updating -- of our Constitution, an absolutely amazing document. For this I am more than thankful. And most of all, I'm thankful for our freedoms of self-expression without political, class, caste, racial or other barriers getting in the way, along with our sovereignty to study and practice the religions we choose to pass down to the next generation without interference from government or society. These freedoms alone are truly remarkable in the history of the world and still absent from far too many countries and societies on our planet.

We are a generous people and generosity takes many forms -- tolerance, charity, and remaining open to all points of view are chief among them. After this day of giving thanks, let's all strive, in our own manner, to make it even better and continue to teach by example.

Jason Busch

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