My first Thanksgiving was in 1956. Another year over – and over, and again. I’m getting too old for what I’m seeing at these major milestones. Americans have become a people manipulated to conform to social, national and commercial pressure. We acquiesce (sometimes begrudgingly) to the commercialization of Thanksgiving, of Easter, even of Christmas. Now, it’s Turkey Day, Chocolate Bunny Day, and Mountain of Toys and Debt Day. We roll over to buy trinkets, trinkets everywhere. To eat this candy or food, consume these beverages, do these things. We flock to stores, (now websites) on “Black Friday.” And for national holidays, too – Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Presidents Day (which was once a more respectful Washington and Lincoln Birthday holidays.) We get out grills and do hot dogs and hamburgers at just the right season, we turn on our radios and hear the seasonal songs and advertisements at just the expected time – save one day earlier every year, it seems. Over and again we do what is expected; it’s how we’ve been programed, inculcated, and even manipulated. Parents know this at Christmastime. Resistance is futile. Budgets are busted and credit cards strained from the commercialized pressure blasting from mailbox mailers and TV and web ads and radio jingles. Buy, buy, buy! Another year over, another begun. For many, holiday fatigue has already set in. Throw in political fatigue, newscaster scandal fatigue, presidential tweeting fatigue, XL pipeline fatigue, built the wall fatigue, culture war fatigue, political polarization fatigue. … Thanksgiving? After this year? After all the incredulity we’ve experienced? Over 50 percent of Americans say today is the worst time in the history of the country. How’s there’s room for thankfulness? More than one million Americans are on the waiting list for permanent disability Social Security. Nearly 20,000 fellow Americans died last year waiting for their hearings schedule on a two-year backlog. Many are truly disabled. More are likely just beaten down, the final fallout of the Great Recession – truly a Great Depression for many. And that still lingers on. We’ve got 2.2 million Americans behind bars. Some 70-million Americans have been arrested at one time or another – and now have criminal records. There’s as many Americans with criminal records as have college degrees! Have we become a police state yet? Are we taking note of these changes within us with any caution? Reuters reports America has 500,000 homeless. Folks just living out in the streets with less care and love than our pets. Max, the family dog, and Puss, the family cat, are loved more than the homeless we look straight in the eye and turn and forget. And through all this, our “larger-than-the-next-eight countries-combined” military fights never-ending wars world-wide as most Americans don’t stop to analyze the staggering costs. Parents, observe the obscenely violent combat video games now hyped on your TV screens just in time for Christmas cheer! Runaway deficits and thoughtless war without end and mega-homelessness and a police-incarceration-industrial state is what our grand democratic experiment has come to? God forbid! Yet it exists, right in front of us, if we choose to see. Amidst these very real flaws, I’m not at all an ingrate. I’m incredibly grateful I live in this bucolic city with good government, good law enforcement, good schools and good social bonds. I have great neighbors, great friends. My kids and family have grown and prospered through the help and aid of all around us. We do bow our heads and say and feel thanks for all we’ve literally been given – for the chance to earn all the rest. We are so very thankful down to our deepest hearts. But we do know the overwhelming portion of the SCV this Thanksgiving are not the 70 million Americans with rap sheets and 2.3 million in jail. We’re not part of the beaten down from an uncontrollable economic storm to the point where we’re broken and dying. We’re not homeless, family-less, money-less. We’re still generally of sound mind, have good perspective on the world around us, and have good prospects. Yes, almost all in the SCV are blessed. So blessed, it’s easy to overlook outside our immediate field of vision. A wonderful Christian man I know – a guy who truly lives his faith – recently told me, “Gary, prayer for most is the greatest excuse to do nothing. We pray for jobs, but did we prepare ourselves or even apply? We pray for peace, but did we intercede to promote it?” Friends, the Bible clearly states, “Faith without works is dead.” At the risk of overstepping, let me add, “Thanks without action is fake.” This Thanksgiving, let us kiss the SCV ground below our feet with the utmost gratitude. And with resolve to solve the very deep and very real injustices, flaws, suffering sadly existent all about us. As thankful Americans, let’s not settle for just, “another year over.” Instead, focus our gratitude to build a greater good for all Americans – and even the world – far, far beyond what we see here in our beautiful, peaceful, and prosperous SCV. Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.