In the end, I suppose, it comes down to gratitude. Gratitude was once regarded as a great virtue. It is, for example, at the very center of Judaism, which requires the observant Jew to thank God so often that it is a wonder he has time for anything else. He pronounces his thanks upon seeing the sun rise and upon seeing it set; he gives thanks for every morsel he puts into his mouth, with a different blessing for each food after its own kind; and practically anything that happens to him (including bad things), or that he notices, calls for yet another acknowledgment of having been blessed. .

It is in this spirit of love and gratitude that, looking back as a septuagenarian on my life as an American in America, I am again reminded of something Jewish--this time of a special hymn of thanksgiving. It is included in the Haggadah, the book that Jews read aloud while conducting the seder, the festive meal they are required to eat on the holiday of Passover.

In this hymn are listed all the elements making up the great event commemorated by the holiday--the liberation of the ancient Hebrews from slavery and their deliverance to the Promised Land of Israel--and a few more for good measure. Each element is the subject of its own sentence, and each sentence of the series concludes with the word dayyenu, which can roughly be translated as "that alone would have been enough for us." The idea is that, not content with "that alone," God went on and on and on to pile up wonder after wonder and marvel after marvel: so many that those participating in the seder invariably grow fatigued by the time they finish reciting them all.

America is not God, but it declared its independence as a nation by an appeal to "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," and the Constitution its founders wrote and ratified for that new nation uses the word "blessings" in its very first paragraph. The particular blessings to which they referred were those of liberty, to "secure" which to themselves and their posterity they created the Constitution that set the United States of America on its course.

For we, who are their posterity, either by blood or by adoption, should be giving daily thanks. We should be giving thanks for the establishment of justice (defined by John Adams as "a government of laws, not of men"). We should be giving thanks for a "domestic tranquillity" that has more often than not been "insured." We should be giving thanks for the "common defense" that has kept our homeland safe for so long from foreign invasion or destruction from the skies. We should be giving thanks for the "general welfare" that has been "promoted" by all these other blessings beyond the dreams of ancient avarice.

Any one of these blessings would have been enough; but America gave us all of them together, one following from another, and weathering challenges great and small for the two long centuries since President George Washington issued a Proclamation in 1789 at the request of both houses of Congress "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

In honoring Congress's request, Washington went on to speak in his own words of "the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty" the nation had enjoyed since achieving its independence and "for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, . and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us."

Such is the dayyenu that applies to all Americans alike, and that ought to be drowning out the "awful keening noise" about which William Buckley expressed his eloquent distaste in [his 1983 book "Overdrive: A Personal Documentary"]-the noise that kept, and keeps, us from hearing the bells still ringing for America and for which "we are obliged to be grateful."

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