This Thanksgiving, we’re thankful for America’s challenges. They reveal blessings worth remembering on this day devoted to gratitude.
Consider these national issues, and what they say about the state of the country this year:
The rancor on the midterm campaign trail this year has been exhausting, and we’re as tired as the next guy of the bitter partisanship in Washington, D.C. But that bickering is part of democracy, and it sure beats the alternatives used in many countries across the globe. Our elections this autumn were peaceful, in spite of the loud posturing on both sides of the aisle. Voters accepted the results without violence in the streets. No one felt compelled to declare martial law. It’s such a common phenomenon in the United States — this peaceful transfer of power — that we tend to take it for granted. But it’s a hallmark of our country and something worth treasuring this Thanksgiving.
The obesity epidemic
We Americans, as a people, are simply too fat for our own good, and that’s led to all sorts of serious health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. Those are grave health concerns, and we don’t want to dismiss them. But the two big drivers of obesity — the widespread availability of food and the optional nature of exercise — are problems our ancestors would have loved to have. We eat too much because we can. Those Pilgrims who nearly starved to death before that first Thanksgiving surely would have envied the easy plenitude of our modern existence. And this nation founded by farmers who labored from dawn till dusk, and expanded by factory hands working long hours on the assembly line, is now so technologically advanced that few of us have to burn many calories to get a paycheck. Our relatively comfortable lives are a wonder to behold this Thanksgiving.
We’re having a hard time as a country deciding how much health care we want and how we’re going to pay for it, but we’re using more health care than ever because medical advances have given us so many options. A short century ago — a blink of an eye in the human pageant — modern surgery was in its infancy, there were no antibiotics and cancer was pretty much an automatic death sentence. Americans routinely died from tuberculosis, polio, the flu. People didn’t spend that much on health care because doctors couldn’t offer much to patients. The medical revolution, expensive as it is, has enabled us to lead longer, happier lives.
We have an immigration debate in this country because people are struggling to get in. They rightly see the United States as a land of freedom and opportunity. There’s talk of strengthening our borders to keep people out — and not, as in some countries, to keep us in.
This country is blessed beyond measure. It’s right that we set aside at least one day each year to consider how lucky we are.