Should we give thanks this Thanksgiving? Unfortunately, my job often confronts me with reasons to despair, including some of the economic trends in our communities and the seeming inability of our political leaders to work cooperatively. On this uniquely American holiday, can we summon up any hope and express our thanks unconditionally for anything?
I become disenchanted – perhaps the word, disgusted, serves better – with those politicians who refuse to compromise and reach agreements that will benefit all of us, in tough times when we all need to sacrifice our pet projects and issues. Of course, each side can document, probably back to the time of George Washington, how the other side did something that caused today’s problems and which can’t be undone. That attitude of blame, rather than a “can do” attitude, demoralizes.
But then I’m thankful for living in a democracy. I’ve spent time living in a society where people could not vote for their legislators; “political decisions” too often emerged from violence or threats of violence. I’ve watched on TV the turmoil in the Middle East, where people put their lives on the line to achieve rights that we take for granted in the United States. This makes me thankful to live where I do.
I worry about several trends that threaten the long-term wellbeing of our communities and the standing of our nation as a whole:
- The increasing disparities nationally and worldwide between different social classes, people of different races, and other groups
- The fastest growing segment of our population in this country seeming to fall farther behind in readiness for school at age 5 and competence for college or career at age 18
- The effects of the recession on all of us, except perhaps the billionaires, who find ourselves in a struggling situation
But then I’m thankful for the growing network of people in this country – some of whom I have the privilege to work with – who recognize that the achievement gap, health disparities, and other emerging issues pose a threat to the greatness and vitality of our nation and who want to move forward with zeal and a common vision.
I guess I’m a deep-seated optimist; adversity won’t deter me. I hope that you are too. I hope you can give thanks, whether to your God, to Mother Earth, to Humanity, or whatever, because despite the trends, we have a lot to build on if we act with good intention and respect for all.