Explaining believably what people in the Bay Area might have reason to be thankful about on Thanksgiving 2009 is not exactly an easy sell.
It’s hardly top secret that unemployment — nationally, statewide and locally — is up over 10 percent for the first time in nearly 30 years. And little near-term relief is in sight while the global economy still struggles to climb back from a frightening near-meltdown.
The mid-20th century’s golden California dream — with its blissful beach lifestyle, top-quality public education, superb freeways and booming commerce — now seems like a lost paradise, not contemporary reality. Decades of well-meant but often misguided political tinkering have turned the California that once was an internationally envied symbol of good living into America’s first near-dysfunctional 21st-century state government.
Worldwide, there is no shortage of ominous portents. Around the globe, thorny conflicts among ethnic groups and/or nation-states run rampant, with little imminent hope of reconciliation. History’s deadliest weapons are either being used or under threat of proliferation. As never before, the United States must fight to rid the world of stateless, anonymous terrorist forces.
Finding additional bad news would be no problem. Yet none of it cancels or disproves the ultimate meaning of our Thanksgiving holiday. Even the initial American Thanksgiving was celebrated amid desperate times, as the pilgrims struggled to collect sufficient food to survive the first harsh winters in their difficult new homeland. But the pilgrims did prevail, and they laid some of the earliest groundwork for what would become the most powerful democracy ever known.
America has celebrated Thanksgiving during World War II, in those dangerous years when eventual victory was anything but assured. We celebrated Thanksgiving during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when one out of every three workers had no job, and unemployment insurance didn’t exist. Each time, we did prevail through the hard challenges and emerged a stronger and better nation than before.
Americans have always prevailed and always will, even through times a lot tougher than anything we are facing today. Jobs and a solid economy will come back; our brave military will return from far-off, frustrating campaigns. Thanksgiving remains meaningful even in the hardest Novembers, and not only because it reunites us with family and those whom we care most about.
Thanksgiving is never irrelevant. It reminds us of the universal truth that we all have much in our lives worth being thankful for, even though we ordinarily take our unobtrusive blessings for granted. For starters, we are Americans — not trapped in grinding Third World poverty or beaten down by the harsh edicts of dictatorship. And we are lucky enough be celebrating our Thanksgiving in the Bay Area, the world’s most dynamic and inviting environment.