Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Since World War II, when President Roosevelt and Congress agreed on a date, Americans have gathered on the fourth Thursday of November to celebrate the blessings of the year and express gratitude for bountiful harvests.
The holiday actually dates all the way back to the 1500s, when some of the first Europeans to reach North America gave thanks for what they had. The first Thanksgiving in what is now the United States is thought by many historians to have been celebrated by the Spanish at St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565. There were also Thanksgiving celebrations in Virginia in 1619, two years before the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Native Americans commemorated the often-depicted lifesaving harvest at Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts.
Abraham Lincoln made use of both Thanksgiving, in the 1860s largely celebrated north of the Mason-Dixon Line, especially within New England, and Christmas, celebrated largely to the south, toward further uniting the nation. That, in turn, initiated the change in meaning for Thanksgiving, eventually providing room to discuss in public the suffering of Native Americans over the centuries.
It’s a good time to reflect on that with which we’ve been blessed, to pray for those who aren’t as fortunate, to remember those, as stated in President Biden’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, “…feeling the pain of an empty chair at the Thanksgiving table,” and to consider next steps for the coming year.
Here are some of the things we’re thankful for:
COVID-19 relief + overdue investments in public services
We’re thankful that we have a president, vice president and Congress who are focused on trying to raise up people’s lives instead of using government as a weapon to punish their adversaries.
Thanks to Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Democratic members of Congress, the American Rescue Plan and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are now law, and Build Back Better is on its way to joining them.
COVID-19 vaccines and new medicines
We’re thankful for vaccines that protect against COVID-19 and have made it possible to resume many pre-pandemic activities with less risk.
We’re also thankful for the likely imminent availability of Molnupiravir and Paxlovid, which in tests reduced the need for hospitalization of the unvaccinated by 50% and 85%, respectively.
We’re thankful for the essential employees, especially those working in schools, retirement communities, nursing homes, and hospitals, who have served their communities through this difficult time; and for those that have worked incredibly hard to be largely inclusive and inventive in the midst of a very difficult time.
We’re thankful that workers, in the midst of the pandemic, have found their limit and their voice, who refuse to be treated somewhere between shabbily and dangerously in accomplishing their tasks, who have decided that their happiness lies beyond the paycheck, at least for a little while, and who have decided that now is the time to determine what happiness and contentment through employment really means for them.
Unions and worker organizing on the rise
We’re thankful for the byproducts of the Great Resignation — better treatment on the job for many, improved contracts for unionized employees, and an increasing desire for the unorganized to get organized.
The end of Britney Spears’ conservatorship
We’re thankful for #FreeBritney, a movement that drew needed attention to conservatorships, a legal system of restrictions and controls sometimes imposed on disabled or elderly people through the courts, and created the space not just to address the most marginal cases of mistaken or misplaced conservatorships and guardianships, but to rethink the whole rationale for these arrangements.
Advances in renewable energy
Coal is on track to become too expensive to use in most of the western world. China is having major arguments from within its leadership over its use (and presently is increasing use largely because climate damage is hitting them far harder than it is in North America, which is hard to believe, at times, but true), which will likely become moot once their electrical transmission networks are back on track. Rare earth materials may soon not be needed as part of the production process, and new means of acquiring energy are on track to become a reality.
Cost of living increases
We’re thankful for retirees receiving a 5.9% boost in their benefits starting in 2022 – the largest cost of living increase since 1982.
And finally, we’re thankful that we were able to expand our research polling to the local level this year. Many Cascadia Advocate readers stepped up with contributions to make that happen. You’re the best! Have a great Thanksgiving.