My father-in-law passed away peacefully in his sleep last week. He was 92 and the original American piece of work. He had children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. He never wanted much, just his own way.
Joseph, was a product of the end of the first world war. He was second generation Italian on one side, and on another had an ancestor that fought in the Civil War. Being a history and genealogy junkie, I liked to feed him tidbits of research on his background. Tidbits that helped strengthened his belief in his family’s foundation and confident in its accomplishments. He thought that it was so great that there existed an historical map of his lifetime through these tidbits, a picture of the ship from the 1800s where parts of his family had come back and forth from Italy, the census from 1910, and his Navy discharge papers that were long lost after his service in the South Pacific in WWII.
He was a small handsome Italian guy, blonde with blue eyes; just a regular Joe.
His history was very important to him. It helped him know that he didn’t arrive on this earth alone. He talked always of his city of Philadelphia, where he was born and raised and where he raised his own. He talked of how such and such a thing ended up where, who built it and who tore it down.
He was brought to this place by the grace of God through his ancestors from places which were not nearly as prosperous as the one they were headed for. America. Relatives worked all means of dirty, skilled and semi-skilled jobs. He was so proud of them.
In recent years we have been reprimanded, warned not to be haughty over the success of the American dream and the infrastructure built by average Americans that built the strongest economy in the world. We were told, “No, you didn’t build that”.
The American dream has almost NOTHING to do with money or entitlement. It is uniquely American in that any average Joe, who keeps his shoulder to the wheel, and has the drive, can provide a nice living for his family and extended family. A family history did NOTHING to hold him back. Because his grandfather was a shoemaker, it didn’t mean he couldn’t be an electrician or a plumber or a doctor or whatever it took to thrive given his determination and abilities. Class has nothing to do with anything in America. Only those who wish to hold on to power or wealth and try to keep you poor and dependent will tell you that it does.
Petty Officer Joe American was buried with full ceremony and honors for his rank, with taps and a shot gun salute and the entire nine yards of military tribute. His rank not given due to his lineage or royalty as would have been true in Europe. It was earned. He was an American, a classic product of the blessed and noble American experiment wrought from the European Enlightenment.
On this Thanksgiving Day, thank God first of course, but then also thank Joe and all of his fellow veterans and family who gave us what we have and shame on those who seek to diminish it.