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A Time to Give Thanks

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A Time to Give Thanks

By Congressman Joe Pitts

There is seemingly no off-season from political campaigning in the modern reality of 24-hour news cycles, the Internet, and endless political punditry.

America just completed a midterm election cycle that spent record amounts of money, attracted widespread media coverage, and left many Americans worn out from the bare-knuckled political campaigns waged over the airwaves in advance of Election Day.

Yet, the dust had barely settled - indeed, several Congressional races remain to be called - before speculation shifted to 2008. Who will run, who can win, and what will it all mean for America.

Elections matter. And we do well to keep up on the issues and inform ourselves about where our leaders stand. But with the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, we have the opportunity to take a brief timeout from the incessant political maneuvering and remember the countless things we all have to be thankful for as Americans.

Ironically, free elections and the right to self-rule sit high on the list. While the inundation of campaign phone calls, yard signs, literature, and commercials can be exasperating, they also point to the open, free, and robust political process we enjoy in America. Though the outcome of any given election will always please some and dismay others, ours is a system that truly places the power in voters' hands.

If there's any doubt about the value of free elections, just look at countries whose citizens are given the right to vote after years of totalitarian rule. Iraq, for example, has experienced tremendous turnout in its post-Saddam elections, despite the violence that has threatened potential voters there. These people understand that open and fair elections are not free.

Another thing we can all be thankful for is America's deep and abiding belief in individual freedom and our willingness to promote and defend it wherever it is under attack. Despite all of its critics, including some within our own borders, our American democracy is a standard-bearer for individual liberty around the world.

One of my top priorities as a Member of Congress is to promote human rights and justice for oppressed peoples around the world. In this role, I encounter story after story of horrible injustice and the denial of basic freedoms.

I've met with refugees who are afraid to publicly show their faces for fear that they will be recognized and returned to their home country where they will face torture or even death. I've spoken with men and women of faith who must risk their lives each day simply to worship God as they choose.

My heart breaks when I meet these people and hear their stories. It motivates me to fight for justice on their behalf, but it also reminds me of how exceptional the American system of freedom and democracy is on the world stage.

This Thanksgiving, every American can also be thankful for the skill, dedication, and courage of our United States military, and their willingness to defend our nation and our interests in every corner of the globe. We give great thanks for our freedoms, but without our soldiers, sailors and airmen to defend those freedoms, they would quickly be lost.

While we gather with friends and family to celebrate the holidays, there will be thousands of young men and women in uniform standing guard in some of the most far reaching posts on earth. We owe each of them a debt of gratitude.

In the coming two years, there will be no shortage of time for politicians to debate their competing ideas in the political arena. But, this Thanksgiving, I'm hopeful all Americans can pause to remember those things for which we can all give thanks. The list is long.

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