Come Ye Thankful People

This will be my 64th Thanksgiving, and I cannot recall a single previous one which presented such a challenge to find reasons to be thankful.  I mean, c’mon, really? 

The elephant in the room is the Covid-19 pandemic.  A fairly small but vocal minority will tell you that no such thing exists, and that the whole thing is a plot to force your obedience.  Another, somewhat larger, minority will tell you that, while it’s real, the public hue and cry over it is an overreaction, and that the virus should be allowed to run its course.  On the other end are the folks who make it sound like the Black Death, mark 2, and call for draconian controls on everyone and everything.  None of these exactly inspire feelings of thankfulness.

And whatever your view of this crisis, it is beyond question that this virus and our means of coping with it have severely disrupted our society, killing thousands of businesses and millions of jobs.  We have seen sharp rises in instances of domestic violence, substance abuse, and suicide, almost certainly related to economic hardship, social isolation, or both, and both related to the pandemic.  Certainly nothing to be thankful for in this.

“But wait, there’s more!”  Police shootings that appear to reveal a lack of accountability of our law enforcement officers and fairly widespread rioting and destruction of property provoked by them.  Wildfires in Australia and California (the latter becoming essentially an annual event).  So many hurricanes and tropical storms that we’ve resorted to Greek letters to name them.  “Murder hornets.” 

Then, on the political front.  We told ourselves in 2016 that the two legacy parties had never before offered two such unattractive candidates.  Then, 2020 came along and said, “Hold my beer.”  Many of us knew four years ago that the Republican candidate was a boor and a bully, limited in vision and intellect, but at least right up until election day, we were sure he couldn’t win.  Well, he proved us wrong on the last point, and has spent four years proving us right on everything else.

In response, the Democratic Party offered us a ticket, victorious, even if the incumbent and his minions won’t admit it, led by an elderly career politician who wrote a crime bill, 26 years ago, that may be the most effectively racist piece of legislation since the Jim Crow era, whose utterances frequently reveal him to be a master of his party’s “white man’s burden” racism, and whose mental acuity is open to some question.  He was joined on the ticket by a woman of color who made her reputation in politics by incarcerating people of color for victimless crimes, withholding exculpatory evidence, and opposing legislation to end these abuses.

For us Libertarians, our ticket brought home vote percentages less than half of what our 2016 ticket achieved and saw us sent back to square one on ballot access in several states, including here in Ohio.

Well, we’ve painted a picture that’s pretty bleak, haven’t we?  How can we find anything to be thankful for among these many trials and tribulations?  Well, let’s look a little deeper.

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen healthcare providers going about their daily business, caring for the afflicted and also for the many people who required medical attention for unrelated causes.  I can testify to this myself, as I spent four days in the hospital in September for a condition that had nothing to do with any virus, and I was well cared for by dedicated nurses, doctors, and technicians.  For this, I am thankful, and even if you were spared the need for care yourself, you should be thankful that it was there if you had needed it.

Millions of other “essential” workers, from the person who delivered your Grubhub order to the grocery clerk who rang up your food purchases, and dozens of others, stayed on the job to make sure that your needs were taken care of.  And while we’ve talked about the comparatively few who have fought against the measures intended to fight the spread of the virus, millions upon millions of others have worn their masks, kept their distance, minimized their trips outside the home, and stayed home completely if they felt unwell.  It doesn’t matter why they did this; in some cases, it may just have been based on the desire to be good neighbors.  In the end, all that matters is that they made the world spin a little easier.

Here’s one you may not have thought of: our creative artists, filmmakers, musicians, and so forth, have continued to produce new content to amuse and distract us.  If their usual avenues of distribution have been blocked, they’ve invented new and different ones.  Our athletes, at the professional and amateur levels, have adjusted to the challenges and found ways to compete.  Resist the temptation to undervalue these contributions.  Hard times always require the distraction and uplift of entertainment, and this is doubly important when millions of Americans who are used to going into work every day find themselves cut off from that work.

I won’t comment further upon the outcome of the late election.  I am, at once, thankful that one legacy candidate lost and depressed that the other won.  But the fact of the matter is that we did have an election, the people were heard, and it now appears that however much bad blood was stirred up, we will, once again, have a peaceful transition of power from one party and one administration to another.  Brothers and sisters, most of us have no idea of how rare and special this is.  Very, very few nations have ever managed this as long or as often as we have.

While it may look like our Libertarian ticket underperformed, it still managed to draw the second-largest vote total of any Libertarian national ticket ever, somewhere north of 1.8 million votes.  And we were rewarded with many significant down-ticket results from a state legislator elected as a Libertarian for the first time in a generation to statewide candidates who set new records even if they were not elected.  And that national ticket featured two principled and exceptionally able spokespeople for our party, our principles, and our ideals.  They brought our message to millions for the first time.

2020 is the 400th anniversary of the landing of a small band of religious dissidents on the coast of what would become Massachusetts.  Over that winter, many of them died, and the colony as a whole nearly failed.  In that bleak winter, they must have felt that they, too, had little to be thankful for.  But a year later, with a harvest brought in, they were able to lay on a feast of thanksgiving for having lived through that adversity and survived.  They learned to focus on the positive and carry through, carry on.  Can we do less?

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