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« Rationale or rationalization? | Main | Notes from NECC 2 »

A second Thanksgiving Day

 curmudgeon: An ill tempered (and frequently old) person full of stubborn ideas or opinions - wiktionary

A not uncommon response when asking a Minnesotan how things are going is, "Oh, could be worse." Effusive, we're not.

The "could-be-worse" philosophy is one I personally need to remember more often. 

The LWW and I are spending a few days unwinding by visiting the beautiful Texas Hill Country north of San Antonio. It's been a busy summer and a few days of getting up late, reading and touring are welcome. Yesterday, July 4th, we took the whole day visiting President Lyndon Johnson's ranch and hometown of Johnson City.

While most of us remember Johnson as the "Vietnam War" president with chants of "LBJ, LBJ, how many babies did you kill today," I was struck by his efforts to create his 'the Great Society." It was under Johnson that effective civil rights legislation was passed. Medicare and Medicaid was enacted during his term. Money poured into schools with the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Thanks to Lady Bird, the environmental movement got started, and he added substantially to the National Parks domain. LBJ signed into law funding for the start of public broadcast. Any NPR listeners out there? 

Johnson was motivated by the experiences of his own childhood. He grew up poor, worked his way through college, and remained in close contact with his Hill Country neighbors and empathized with the disadvantaged. He was described as the last great "rural liberal."

 Anyway, something about LBJ and the 4th of July made me question my curmudgeonly stance on so many issues:

  • I complain about aching knees when getting up in the morning when thousands of our veterans have no knees to ache.
  • I grouse about my steak being over-cooked when I eat more in a week that others do in a month.
  • I fuss about the seat pitch on airplanes when I can fly across the country in hours, safely.
  • I moan about my grandsons living too far from home when they are healthy, smart and loving.
  • I steam about a lack of funding for technology in schools when education in this country for both boys and girls is universal.
  • I grumble about taxes, gas prices, and my 401K's performance when I am blessed with a job I love that allows me comforts unknown to 99% of the rest of the world.
  • I despise the politics in this country yet I recognize that I live in a society in which its citizens enjoy more freedom and safety than during any place or time in history.

usflag2.jpgWhen it comes right down to it, what do I really have to complain about?  Perhaps we need two Thanksgiving Days in the US. Just as a reminder that many, many, many of us do indeed lead charmed lives.

Could be worse.

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Reader Comments (7)

I also visited Johnson's birthplace about 15 years ago, and developed a strong sense of admiration for all Johnson overcame in his poor childhood and how much he worked to accomplish for our country. Your blog entry was a nice reminder for me of that visit. It is sad that most of us remember him best just for his role in Vietnam. Thanks, too, for your reminders about all we have to be grateful for. It is so easy to forget all that and just remember all our complaints.

July 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJane Lofton

When food doubles or triples in price we can still dine without sacrifice, unlike many in the Third World.

The sad thing is that our food prices do not take the radical jumps in price evident in poorer countries.

Thanks for the humbling perspective.

July 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPaul C.

Thank you for reminding us of all that we have to be thankful for. It's easy to take for granted all the efforts of those whose lives make / made our lives better / safer / et al.

July 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Edwards

I too had a much more positive opinion of LBJ after visiting his ranch and the LBJ library in Austin. And there is, IMHO no place more beautiful in Texas than the Hill Country. I hope you treated yourself to some Hill Country Peaches too.

July 5, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterguusje

Could be so, so much worse! Yes, I complain at the gas pump, but it still beats those long lines backK when there was supposed to be a gas shortage. And thankfully, I can still go where I want. I do think about it for a moment, but then off I go. How many people in other countries would think we were living like royalty? I am thankful to have been born in the USA. As bad as it seems some times, we are blessed! Thanks for making me think about my unimportant complaints.

July 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterK Terry

@ Hi Jane,

Thanks for leaving this comment. I expect the exhibit only brings out the best of Johnson, but I hope we are all remembered for our best rather than our worst.

All the best,


@ Thanks, Paul. There was just an editorial in this am's San Antonio paper about how percent of income we spend on food is so much smaller than those in developing nations. It called the bio-fuel efforts immoral, and I tend to agree.

All the best,


@ Thanks, Nancy. I am as guilty as anyone in the minor nature of my daily complaints.

All the best,


@ Hi Guusje,

I had peach cobbler that was to die for! And apple ice cream too!


@Hi Kathie,

We DO live like royalty here. My mother had an expression - "There but for the grace of God go I" whenever she saw a person less fortunate by accident of birth. It think of the expression often.

All the best and thanks for the comment,


July 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson


Funny you should mention that expression of your mother's--I was just trying to explain it to my stepdaughter the other day--she'd never heard that expression before we said it the other day.

I do think it is easy to get caught up in the minor daily grumbles, web 2.0 controversies, and small discomforts and miss the positives sometimes. (Or take those things for granted, but then I suppose that is human nature.)

Thanks for the reminder!

July 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn Foote

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