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Counting America's Blessings
By Cathy Young | November 29, 2004
THIS YEAR THANKSGIVING FELL ON A TROUBLED TIME. LESS THAN A MONTH AFTER THE ELECTION, THERE IS STILL FAR TOO MUCH VENOM LEFT IN AMERICA'S POLITICAL BLOODSTREAM; IT SEEMS WE HAVE GONE FROM ONE NATION, INDIVISIBLE, TO TWO NATIONS - RED AND BLUE - EYEING EACH OTHER WITH FEAR AND LOATHING. THE SITUATION IN IRAQ REMAINS GRIM, DESPITE SOME POSSIBLE GLIMMERS OF OPTIMISM. TERRORISM REMAINS AN EVER-PRESENT THREAT. VIRULENT ANTI-AMERICANISM IS SWEEPING THE GLOBE. RUSSIA IS SLOUCHING BACK TOWARD AUTHORITARIANISM AND REPRESSION.
And yet, at a time like this, it may be especially important to count our blessings.
I am grateful for the American system of government, warts and all. Even with all the divisiveness and all the hate that dominated this political season, we have had a free and fair election. When you think of most of human history, that's no small matter. Even today, in all too many nominally democratic countries such as Ukraine, the opposition candidate is lucky if he can get one-10th the airtime given to the ruling party candidate - and if he can survive the assassination attempts.
I am grateful for the fact that, even after a bitter and often nasty campaign, President Bush and Senator John Kerry could be gracious toward each other - and toward each other's supporters - in victory and defeat, respectively. (If only their supporters were quite as mature.) I am grateful for the system of checks and balances, designed by the Founding Fathers in their wisdom, which makes it difficult for one leader or party to ram its agenda down the country's throat.
I am grateful for the bravery and the basic decency of the vast majority of our men and women in uniform. I am grateful for a US military that, even under the most trying circumstances, strives to hold its soldiers to high standards of conduct - both toward civilians in the country where we are at war and toward captured or disabled enemy combatants - and is committed to investigating and punishing abuses. (Shame on those who think it would be "patriotic" to lower those standards. I am grateful for the First Amendment and for the vast, unruly, cacophonous diversity of mainstream and nonmainstream media - The New York Times, Fox News, Salon.com, National Review, bloggers left and right. I am especially grateful for the reporters who put their lives on the line to bring us news from war zones.
I am grateful for the men and women in law enforcement who work to protect us. I am also grateful for the American Civil Liberties Union, even if at times it goes too far in opposing sensible security measures. If the ACLU won all of its battles, it would probably be a bad thing for national security; if it didn't fight those battles, we'd be in danger of losing our civil liberties in the name of safety.
I am grateful for all the people around the world who love freedom and are willing to take risks for it - be it the Ukrainian protesters determined to keep their government from stealing the election, the young Iranians who are challenging the oppressive rule of the mullahs, or the Cuban dissidents raising their voices against Castro's regime.
Outside the political realm, I am grateful for the technological progress that has transformed so much of our lives in just the past decade. I am particularly grateful for e-mail and the Internet. (How did I ever do my job without them?) These days, you can use your computer to do quick and efficient research, to order out-of-print books that once took months to locate, to chat with friends on the other side of the world, or to read Internet-published journalism and fiction whose quality rivals anything in traditional print. Online communications have also proved a potent weapon in the fight for freedom: a tyrannical regime can no longer exercise total information control unless it wants to consign itself to technological backwardness.
I am also grateful for the much-maligned cell phone. Yes, people who conduct loud conversations in public places can be annoying; but this minor irritant is vastly offset by the benefits we derive from the ability to communicate with others from virtually anywhere in minor or major emergencies. I am grateful for many other innovations - from great medical breakthroughs that save lives and ease suffering to the humble DVD, which has allowed film buffs like myself to collect our favorite movies with a variety of fascinating extras, from deleted scenes to interviews with filmmakers and actors.
The list could go on. May we have more blessings to count next Thanksgiving.