On this Thanksgiving let’s make it OK again to have pride in our country’s founding story.Let’s focus on the positives and not the negatives of America’s founding mothers and fathers as we celebrate the 400th Thanksgiving feast. Let’s pretend the woke, politically correct movement never happened and go back to the future like it was 1985 again.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for the Lakes Region Weekly, lives in Windham.

I grew up in the late 1970s and 1980s when Americans’ pride in their country was at fever-pitch. We were battling Soviet communism and we had something to lose – our freedom. The potential of losing our prized freedom to the forces of communism had a way of bringing us together to appreciate the core of the American experiment: freedom from tyrannical government.And public school was where we learned our love of America. We sang “Our Country ’Tis of Thee” and “God Bless America.” We drew pictures of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. We recited the Pledge of Allegiance every day, first thing. We learned about the Pilgrims and the Mayflower. There was no politics in the classroom. There were no social justice warriors disguised as teachers and administrators.And then we won the Cold War. I remember it well, especially after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the U.S.S.R. crumbled soon thereafter. We were victorious. Freedom triumphed over Soviet-style collectivism. And, ironically, it all went downhill from there, as it usually does when any unrivaled victor circles the wagons and starts firing inward.

My generation, Gen-X, was the last generation to grow up in a country that admired itself unapologetically. We loved America and all it stood for. “Our” democracy defeated “their” communism. We witnessed firsthand how a free society could withstand a planned economy and collectivist, totalitarian mindset. It was a great time to be alive. Hollywood celebrated it. The music industry wrote songs about it.

But political correctness settled in on college and graduate school campuses and soon seeped into the thought patterns of ordinary Americans, who began to question the creation story of America. This was the start of what is now called the woke movement, which blames whites, both dead and alive, for all of America’s social ills.

Progressive Democrats and social justice warriors who push critical race theory, which examines social, cultural and legal issues in relation to race and racism in the United States, say Black people and other minorities are victims of this so-called white oppression. Progressives tout wealth redistribution from the “millionaires and billionaires” as the great panacea for remaking America in a better image.

Of course, conservatives say these so-called progressives are playing with fire and have no grounds for their claims that racism is structural in nature and perpetrated in a calculated manner in both government and the private sector. Conservatives believe individuals are individuals, and not part of a victimized class or race, and as such can use their freedom, ambition and hard work to transcend whatever hurdles stand in their way, if they so choose.

But the woke narrative, if allowed to continue to its conclusion, will destroy our country from within. It needs to stop. We need to get back to an individualist mindset where people believe they can do whatever they want if they put their minds to it. This is the American dream. The Pilgrims were the first to pursue it.

We also need to see collectivism for what it is – anti-freedom, anti-individual and ultimately anti-American. We need to believe again that we are all Pilgrims, finding our way in a tough world, but that we can, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, make it to the promised land.

This Thanksgiving, instead of being diverted by the cultural revisionists of the woke movement, who only focus on the negatives of America’s long history, instead ponder the four stanzas of the great patriotic song “My Country ’Tis of Thee” by Samuel Smith, a missionary trained at Andover Seminary in Massachusetts, where the great American story began in earnest:

“My country, ’tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing; Land where my fathers died, Land of the Pilgrims’ pride, From ev’ry mountainside, Let freedom ring!
“My native country, thee, Land of the noble free, Thy name I love; I love thy rocks and rills, Thy woods and templed hills. My heart with rapture thrills, Like that above.
“Let music swell the breeze, And ring from all the trees, Sweet freedom’s song; Let mortal tongues awake; Let all that breathe partake; Let rocks their silence break, The sound prolong.
“Our fathers’ God, to thee, Author of liberty, To thee we sing; Long may our land be bright, With freedom’s holy light. Protect us by thy might, Great God, our King!”

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