We focus a lot on what makes us frustrated, worried or angry. This can be useful in troubled times. It is a fuel for action, as Rebecca Solnit writes in her Harper’s essay “Facing the Furies”:
Much political rhetoric suggests that without anger there is no powerful engagement, that anger is a sort of gasoline that runs the engine of social change. But sometimes gasoline just makes things explode.
Explosions, of course, are exhausting. So we thought we would tamp down the fire for the holiday and begin a list of what we are grateful for this Thanksgiving.
1. Our Independent Judiciary
No question that the federal bench is being seriously threatened by a conservative court-packing plan, the likes of which we have not seen. But right now the federal judiciary continues to stand strong — for starters, it blocked unconstitutional efforts to impose a Muslim ban; to shut down reproductive health clinics or ban late term abortion procedures; to defund so-called sanctuary cities, and to ban transgender people from serving in the military. And along with the impartial judges who put the brakes on, we are grateful for all the pro bono and nonprofit attorneys who go to bat for the rights of our most vulnerable citizens and immigrants, as well as our threatened air, water and lands.
2. Investigative Reporters
We are grateful that intrepid reporters are outing the truth. Journalism is under siege — newsrooms are shrinking, local newspapers are disappearing, and powerful people are branding credible media organizations as “fake news.” Even so, investigative reporting has become more important thn ever to the health of our country — uncovering corruption and holding people accountable. “At its base, most investigative reporting is making an argument,” Eric Umansky, deputy managing editor of ProPublica said at a recent conference, “It’s a nonpartisan, fact-based, vigorously investigated argument that serves to inform people. And informing people is a key part of any democracy.”
3. Climate Action
A majority of Americans in every state (even half of Trump voters) say the United States should stay in the Paris Climate Agreement. So we are grateful that states are joining forces in the climate battle. State-level initiatives to curb carbon emissions may begin to fill the void left by our federal government and bring businesses onboard. This month, in particular, we want to thank the unofficial contingent of more than 2,500 American business leaders, elected officials and environmental advocates, led by California Gov. Jerry Brown and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who went to the UN climate talks in Bonn to reassure the world that “We’re Still In.” They helped the United States save face as the 29 official US representatives sent by the Trump administration were extolling the virtues of coal and fossil fuels. As Bloomberg noted, “Promoting coal at a climate summit is like promoting tobacco at a cancer summit.” Calling itself America’s Pledge, the well-branded, well-funded and well-organized initiative has already enlisted 20 states, 110 cities and 1,400 businesses to reduce carbon emissions. By their numbers, they represent 130 million Americans and $6.2 trillion of the US economy. That is not enough to meet the Paris emissions goals, or stop global warming, but given that the earliest that Trump can actually pull the plug is less than three months before his term ends, they keep us in the fight.
4. The Resistance
Much more than an online hashtag — a very real grassroots movement of independent resistance groups took shape beginning with the Women’s March against the Trump presidency last January. The resistance draws on the guidance of Indivisible — the group started by former congressional staffers that wrote a valuable guide to advocacy — and they are tackling a multitude of issues including: Trump’s tax plan, health care, immigration, climate change, sexual harassment and racism. Organized groups are pressuring members of Congress and supporting new candidates for office. The Guardian reports there are at least six times the number of new grass-roots groups who count themselves among the Resistance than the tea party claimed at its peak: “Locally focused, self-organized, and overwhelmingly led by women, these groups show every sign of digging in for the long haul.”
5. First-time Progressive Candidates
We are grateful for first-time political candidates — the many women, millennials and people of color — who are stepping into the political fray across the country on national and local levels and inspiring voters with campaigns that promote progressive causes. And we are happy that there are organizations, both new and established helping to identify, motivate and fund these new candidates.
6. Reverse Coattails
We are grateful for a phenomenon that is being called “reverse coatttails.” In districts with highly competitive races, people running down-ballot are increasing turnout for those at the top of the ticket. In Virginia, for example, Democratic voter turnout increased by 40 percent this past election day. A combination of white suburban voters, voters of color in general and black voters in particular, were a force at the polls, not only sending a Democrat to the governor’s office, but electing an African-American lieutenant governor and flipping at least 15 seats in the Virginia state house with a diverse wave of first-time female lawmakers, including the first two Latina lawmakers, the first Asian-American female lawmaker, the first openly lesbian lawmaker and the first openly transgender lawmaker.
Book sales are up (the kind made of paper). We are grateful for that, and for the independent publishers and bookstores that are surviving, and even thriving, despite competition from online sellers like Amazon and from our constantly pinging digital devices. Between 2009 and 2015, the American Book Sellers Association reported a 35-percent growth in the number of independent booksellers, from 1,651 stores to 2,227. We are grateful for libraries too, because many of us still like to wander an aisle, crack open a cover, pose a question to a real person or get a recommendation at the information desk. A professor at Harvard Business School who studied independent bookstores found that book consumers still value community and personal contact.
We are certainly also grateful to our family, friends and our readers. Happy Thanksgiving.