For many Americans, Thanksgiving dinner begins with a prayer.
It is a chance to hold hands, to take a pause, to give thanks. Ayn Rand, firm exponent of reason and the originator of a philosophy for living on earth, would not have approved of praying to a deity. Yet insofar as prayer is defined by the dictionary as a “solemn request or expression of thanks to an object of worship,” she certainly would have approved of a prayerful thanks during this holiday -- and she did.
In one letter to friends -- a Spanish painter and his wife -- she emphasizes that she and Frank (her husband) wanted the couple “to come in time for Thanksgiving, so that we will have occasion to give thanks.”
By all accounts she enjoyed the uniquely American aspect of this family holiday: “Its essential, secular meaning is a celebration of successful production.” She saw Thanksgiving as an occasion not just of gratitude, but pride: “Just as it is the pride of American parents that their children need never know starvation,” our pride should be our productive capacity.
But what inspires pride in some, sadly inspires envy in others. Big business is to be blamed -- not thanked. The same evil spirit of class warfare -- which Ayn Rand witnessed first hand as a victim of the Communist revolution -- resonates more strongly than ever, as young people flocked to a socialist presidential candidate who denounced “the rich” and offered to seize and spread the wealth.
Elections can check political advances -- but without addressing the philosophical premise of “fairness” through force, the noxious weeds will always return. A religious defense of individual rights will appeal to some -- but in a religiously diverse country, a secular defense is essential. That doesn’t mean a defense rooted in economic statistics, but in an individual’s moral right to his own life, free from interference by others and the state.
In that spirit, let me offer a Thanksgiving prayer that can appeal to secularists and religionists alike.
I give thanks for the First Amendment to the Constitution -- which protects my right to practice religion, or practice no religion.
I give thanks to live in a country where Freedom of Speech is protected -- where I can advance controversial ideas, like those promoted by Ayn Rand, relatively free from government interference.
I give thanks to live in a market economy, hampered though it be with government controls, where people are relatively free to produce and trade freely.
I give thanks for the fact that I bought all the food I have prepared at a local grocery store. I am so thankful that I have so many grocery stores to choose from -- stocked with a dazzling array of products sourced from around the world at competitive prices all created with an aim of making money.
I’m extremely grateful for large scale, industrial farming -- with produce and meat farmed and sourced globally.
I give thanks for the invention of pesticides, preservatives, and plastic -- all of which have saved the lives of millions who would otherwise have died of food poisoning or starvation.
I’m grateful for the people who took such risks to drill, dig and engineer to discover and refine energy sources that are keeping me warm, and fueling the massive transport system of trucks, ships, planes and cars that brought this food to the table.
Of course, I could go on and on...but I am hungry, and so are you. So without further ado, I save and give my last and deepest thanks to Ayn Rand, whose books were in their own way, a form of prayer -- populated by men and women worthy of worship, gratitude, and emulation.