Tuesday night of last week, I got a call from Richard, a good friend of mine. I just wasn’t in the mood to take it, you know? You’ve been there. Anyway, he didn’t leave a message.
The next day got away from me, but the day after that I called his cell on the way to work just to catch up. His wife answered the phone. And then I found out that Richard had died in his sleep the day before. Just like that. Gone. He left a wife, a five-year-old daughter, and a son who’s not yet one.
So this is my Thanksgiving message. It’s not dreary or sad at all — on the contrary.
You see, my friend Richard worked for Boeing. He was a defense contractor, and, like so many of his fellow employees, he was a true-blue patriot who loved his country and spent his life making sure that she did not come to harm. I am thankful to him for that… to Richard and all those others, and I am thankful to live in a time where the very idea of a person in their mid forties simply up and dying is so stunning and unheard of that it takes a week just to process it. It’s because of men like Richard that we don’t have to worry about armed invasion — a fear borne by pretty much every human throughout all of recorded, and pre-recorded history. And I am especially grateful to the millions of other hardworking, dedicated people that have so far pushed the boundaries of medicine and science that death itself — which was commonplace for my father’s generation — now seems surreal and almost unnatural.
But of all the things I am thankful for on this most American of holidays, nothing surpasses the pride and gratitude I feel to live in a country where I may sit in this chair and write about whatever I damn well please, without fear of retribution or intimidation. It’s an amazing right. And I’ll continue to sit here and rail against the things I feel hurt our country and our people, knowing in my heart that the instant the people I oppose so passionately actually start to suffer the loss of their rights or freedoms I will be there defending them — armed, if necessary — and that the vast majority of them will do the same for me.
There was a headline on “The Drudge Report” on Tuesday about a Russian analyst predicting the break-up and fall of the USA. Don’t hold your breath, comrade. Today, all across this country, millions of people who go head-to-head on red state/blue state issues will go home, eat turkey, and then passionately go at it again watching Auburn take on Alabama, or Florida play Florida State. And we’ll get about as hot and excited as we do about politics, and none of it will matter. Because when all is said and done, we’re all Americans, together. That’s not something that Russian analyst — or just about anyone else who’s not a part of this raucous, screaming family — has ever been able to figure out.
My office is located just a few blocks from LAX. Driving in to work today, I watched a Qantas 747 rotate, climb into a clear blue sky, and head on out to sea. I’ve been on that flight… twelve and a half hours at 85 percent of the speed of sound, and nothing but water after the first mile. We watch movies and eat dinner, perhaps sleep for a while, eight miles above the earth, flying through the sub-zero air with the speed of a musket ball.
This is a world of miracles. My friend Richard helped build them. We’re pilots, Richard and I, and pilots say “our friend has ‘Gone West.’” Someday, when they are older — and if I haven’t gone west myself — I’ll tell his children what kind of man their father was, and the part he played keeping this magnificent family safe and free and, for the most part, thankful.
Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone. We earn it, every year.