Today marks an American tradition that goes back all the way to our earliest settlers, the Pilgrims who arrived from England in 1620. Ironically, it could be argued that they were among the first “illegal immigrants” to the New World, surviving a grueling voyage across the treacherous Atlantic, seeking religious, political and economic freedom in a strange new land.
Their first Thanksgiving is recited in our history books as a solemn feast to commemorate months of hardship and is retold through stories and legends handed down over nearly four-hundred years of often turbulent and violent American history. The actual day we celebrate Thanksgiving, however, has varied over the past few centuries, until President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed a bill in 1941—designating the holiday observance as the fourth Thursday in November.
While the holiday is steeped in its religious origins, it is not altogether incongruous that even a self-professed Agnostic—like yours truly—should also celebrate by giving thanks, as I was raised a Baptist and am also steeped in the old religious teachings and observances…even those I may often question.
Therefore, as a progressive, liberal American – I feel there is much to be thankful for this year. So, let me offer up my own humble list…in no particular order of importance, as they are all intrinsic to America.
- I am thankful that Barack Obama was reelected as our president. Moreover, I am thankful that he won decisively, with a clear majority of the popular vote and a solid electoral vote mandate to govern. I am thankful that Mitch McConnell was deprived of being thankful (had Obama lost). With his reelection, we progressives can all be thankful that the legacy of his first-term accomplishments will be secure and not so easily undone; equal pay for women, gays allowed to serve their country…openly; and much, much more to be sure…
- I am thankful for healthcare, consumer and financial reform, inroads to resolving our immigration issues (though only by Presidential Order thus far). I’m thankful that President Obama ended one war and is winding down another. I’m thankful that he was at the helm during the turbulent Arab Spring and navigated our involvement through the fall of dictators and despots…without the need (or blood) of American ground troops.
- I am thankful that the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and, relieved that vacancies on the Court—over at least the next four years—will be filled by a Democratic president and confirmed by a Democratic senate.
- I am thankful for a Democratic U.S. Senate and the fact that we have more women serving in that body than ever in our history. Not enough perhaps…but progress nonetheless.
- I am thankful for American women, who favored the President by 11-points in the recent election and, thus, helped save the nation from the certain erosion (if not destruction) of the programs of the New Deal and the Great Society. I am also thankful for the young, politically active Americans, the African-Americans, the Hispanic-Americans, the Asian-Americans, Organized Labor, the LGBT community and all those who rallied around the President and out-voted the far-right, the Neo-conservatives, the big-money corporatists, the racists and the religious ideologues who have co-opted the once moderate ‘Party of Lincoln.’
- I am thankful for Abraham Lincoln…even now. I’m thankful that he lived and served so nobly and set forth his vision of a “Government of the people, by the people, for the people…” and, that 150-years later—though we still face many of the same ‘States Rights’ and racial divides—we have a robust United States of America and a well-preserved federal government.
- I am thankful for that Federal Government. Thankful for the Post Office, the EPA, FEMA, the VA, Social Security, Medicare, labor laws and the minimum wage. I’m thankful for our brave, selfless diplomats serving in harm’s way; laboring for peaceful solutions amid challenging, volatile foreign intrigues. I’m thankful for our national parks and monuments and I am thankful for the men and women in our military services, protecting our freedom and liberty.
I am also thankful that certain shrill, right-wing voices have been turned out of the halls of Congress. I won’t name them here but will, rather, let you fill in the roster. Yes, there are still some in office who would divide, obstruct and even conspire against the progressive agenda we champion. And yes, alas, far-right ideologues still hold sway in the House of Representatives. But our American democracy has prevailed—despite the political rancor and divide of the past year.
We have much, much more for which to be thankful, of course. There is our capitalist system (for all its many faults), our natural resources, our temperate climate, the bounty of our fertile, expansive land, our resilient and diverse people, and our rich history and uniquely American traditions.
In giving thanks and closing, I wish you all a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday and leave you with this bit of wisdom—spoken by another personal favorite: “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.” – Winston Churchill
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