Thanksgiving 2021: Keep Hope Alive

Brightly colored picture of spawning activity on Australia's Great Barrier Reef
Spawning activity on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

Laurie and Debbie say:

Last year, we decided not to put up a gratitude post for Thanksgiving, and instead Debbie wrote about the holiday’s shameful history, in the context of the pandemic. The pandemic is still with us and the holiday will always have a shameful history; nonetheless, we are glad to have things to be grateful for. Hope is still hard to come by … and that makes it precious.

Speaking of the pandemic, as we all so often are, it’s important to acknowledge the mRNA vaccines which are both lifesaving and scientifically extraordinary, offering the promise of further medical advances. Following in the vaccines’ footsteps are at least two oral antiviral pills to treat rather than prevent the disease. And although the global distribution of vaccines has been spotty and disappointing — especially in Africa — the current count of almost 8 billion vaccine doses administered in 184 countries, and 330+ million being added to that every day, is an unprecedented response to a global pandemic. We can — and must — do better, and we can still marvel at  what has been done in less than a year since the first vaccines were released.

In the United States, despite extreme polarization and opposition, the U.S. Congress has passed several major pieces of legislation which improve the lives of Americans, from the CARES Act during Trump’s incumbency through the March 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, to the recent Infrastructure Bill and (hopefully soon) the Build Back Better Act. Of particular note is that the first two bills put direct cash into individual Americans’ bank accounts, something American politicians have previously been loath to do–and of course it’s a very popular move. Also, the child tax credit in the ARPA bill, if extended, is predicted to cut child poverty in the United States in half.

The 20-year-long U.S. war in Afghanistan is over. What’s more, if you sift through the breathless news coverage, you’ll see that the tens of thousands of people who needed to be evacuated were evacuated efficiently and safely and the smaller numbers are still being helped out of the country.

While the headlines are full of the repulsive acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, let us also note that the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery were convicted of murder in Georgia yesterday. And the same week as the Rittenhouse verdict, former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger lost her second appeal, and will stay in jail for having shot and killed Botham Jean in his own apartment. And police officer Eric DeValkenaere was convicted in Missouri of involuntary manslaughter for fatally shooting Cameron Lamb, a Black man causing no trouble in his own back yard. And, of course, the whole world knows that Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd, and sentenced to 22-1/2 years in prison. DeValkenaere’s sentencing is still to come. We note here also that more than 2/3 of the social media posts supporting Rittenhouse come from accounts which disguise their location, and most of them are almost certainly by trolls from Russia, China, and the EU; so don’t simply swallow the “so many Americans support him” narrative.

In that vein, Sherrilyn Ifill, currently director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, reminds us that the sound and fury about everything from the misinformation about critical race theory to the videos of police murders, as awful as they are, especially to BIPOC people like Ifill, is also evidence that we are “at a moment of reckoning,” and things which have been kept hidden for centuries are getting talked about in public.

The much-talked about wave of anti-trans laws is being met by a less-publicized wave of pro-trans court decisions, though no one knows what the Supreme Court will do (other than refusing to hear a case that could have reinstated a school bathroom anti-trans law in Virginia). Meanwhile the Biden administration has both created a third-gender spot on US passports and declared that trans people don’t have to show medical “proof” to choose their passport gender.

Around the world, we see victories for farmers in India, in a very long struggle with the autocratic Indian government. And a desperately needed new constitution in Chile.

Aside from the medical breakthroughs spurred by the coronavirus, space exploration grows with 3 Mars Rovers operating, from the US, the EU, and China.

Sports figures are learning how to take their own agency and power, and not let the media and the sports governing bodies rule their lives. Two particularly notable examples are Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, coming out about her mental health and refusing to participate in activities that do her harm (!), and the incomparable gymnast Simone Biles, who has withdrawn from gymnastics and is starkly honest about her reasons.

The wave of climate protests from youth around the world extends far beyond Greta Thunberg. While they (and adults) take to the streets, many scientific advances are nearing implementation, including concrete that can capture carbon, methane-limiting by feeding seaweed to cows, and there is significant spawning activity on the Great Barrier Reef.

We could go on for pages. The news is generally so bleak that many of these things get overlooked or quickly forgotten. We tried to pick some that we think people should know about.

Happy Thanksgiving, if you celebrate, and if you don’t, have a good day.


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