It was a quiet holiday this year, almost overrun by “Black Friday” and Christmas. We watched the Macy’s parade for a while and then sett of to my parents’ house in Princeton. No turkey frying for us this year. No delicious aromas of gravy, stuffing and fresh cranberries sauce filling the house and no anticipation of late night turkey sandwiches and weekend turkey hash. It was almost depressing seeing that “Miracle on 34th Street” would be playing later that evening. What’s that, a whole 5 minutes for Thanksgiving now?
The all-out rush to boost the economy by filling the coffers of Best Buy and Walmart almost drowned out the ‘stop and think’ about what’s still worth being thankful for. Maybe if Native Americans had shown up with corn and deer for a feast, we could have caught our breaths for a moment.
Although a couple of good, hopeful things did sneak through the mists of negativity to brighten my holiday. The first was the publication of a really good book pointed out by Nicolas Kristoff in the Times. “The better Angels of our nature,” by psychologist Steven Pinker, points out that even with horrors like Darfur and 9/11 we are living in the most peaceful times in the history of humanity.
It is a time of unprecedented peace and stability with enormous progress on many of the hardest problems the human race has battled with since the dawn of our time. Women’s rights have never been stronger, race relations have never been better, and disease has never been fought so fiercely and effectively. Atrocities, once accepted practice for rulers are now seen more and more as totally unacceptable, and by more of us than ever.
That was something really hopeful to read and be thankful for. The second piece of “good news” was a commentary on America’s current economic conditions by Fareed Zakaria in Time. In which he points out that this country still has one of the most competitive economies in the world and is home to the most advanced industries and services. The US population is also still growing, turning out new workers, entrepreneurs and taxpayers, the only first-world, rich country projected to be actually growing over the next 30 years.
Later last week after two long drives, but very little traffic, something else was pointed out to me by a friend. A piece by David Frum in the New York magazine, looks like there’s another Embarrassed Republican in town. His approach reminds me that there are a lot of others who think it’s worth staying in the party and trying to put it right. A great party is a terrible thing to waste, or let fall into the hands of the denizens of some reactionary conservative pseudo reality.
There’s a lot of work to be done in the U S of A, and most of it’s political. Politicians may even be slowly figuring that out, but that could take a couple more election cycles. The best news I heard all week was that Fox news’s highest rated show “The O’Reily factor” only draws 1% of the viewing audience lately. CBS news recently let Katie Couric go because her program only drew twice that. That’s another 99% Fox has a problem with.
Speaking of 99%, over 4000 free Thanksgiving dinners were handed out by those protestors on Thursday. Hundreds more were dropped off at shelters in Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Even better, NYPD did not respond with sound cannons or pepper spray. I’m thankful for that.
While we can’t say the going is easy, it is at least going. There has been a lot of disappointing news lately, like the “Super committee” Republicans not realizing that inaction meant they would be handing a potential Republican presidential candidate the same crummy economy as the current President now has to deal with. Which firms up their lofty position as the “least useful” congressional party in the least effective Congress ever.
However, it must be pointed out that among all the negative Washington news, the James Webb space telescope is back with a budget. That’s means the billions spent that might have been wasted, are now slated for a 2018 launch date. A human telescope parked far out out beyond the moon, imagine that.
The Middle East is still in flux. There is now even more tension over Iran’s nuclear program, if that’s possible. Israel is chomping at the bit to bomb and Syria is an even bigger mess. However Tunisia, birth place of the “Arab spring,” completed their election and sent 217 citizens to work in their new assembly to write their country’s new constitution. 49 of those elected members are women and 47 of them are from the islamist party.
Even what looked like a slow motion disaster in Egypt took a new turn when the current military government began to apologize instead of shooting, beating and gassing unhappy Egyptians. They even offered a compromise to the protestors. To their infinite credit the people in Tahir square are dubious. Egypt is not Tunisia and the road ahead is hard. However, over in Yemen President Saleh has thrown in the towel in exchange for immunity, another win for the Arab spring. Let’s see if he survives to enjoy it.
So, while we are pounded by images of shoppers pepper spraying each other this holiday season, let’s take at least a little time to hunt down the good news to be thankful for. It’s out there, all you have to do is look.
Copyright Prentiss Gray 2011