Editorial: A welcome chance to celebrate good fortune around the Thanksgiving table
In a world that often seems too chaotic and violent to bear, the past year has shown that gloom and despair are oversold commodities. Sometimes, even the bleakest-looking situations can lead to positive outcomes if given a chance. Thanksgiving Day shouldn’t just be about giving thanks for the family’s personal good fortunes but also recalibrating the broader outlook on life to see through the political fog of negativity and recognize that, indeed, good things can happen when people don’t allow hopelessness and negativity to get in the way. Gloom and doom is what politicians try to sell so they can get elected. Americans don’t have to buy it.
Courageously saving lives
The nation has seen horrific bloodshed in public schools that, in at least two cases in recent times, was made worse because law enforcers were reluctant to advance and take down the shooter. Whether it was cowardice or just an overabundance of caution, the result was more dead and wounded students and teachers. But that didn’t happen on Oct. 24 in St. Louis when a deranged former student entered Central Visual and Performing Arts High School across from Tower Grove Park and began shooting. Within minutes, St. Louis police were swarming onto the scene from all directions. They joined forces with school security guards and federal agents and did not wait for someone to map out a plan of action while someone else objected with alternatives while someone else raised objections about who might get hurt if they did it this way instead of that way.
No, they moved in and confronted the shooter without hesitation. He had already fatally injured a student and teacher, and was continuing to shoot others. But officers brought him down before he could kill more. That fact that the death toll was low meant that the attack didn’t garner major national headlines or prompt the networks to interrupt their programming for live coverage. But the story needed to be told on a grander scale because selfless, true heroes saved lives that day — in sharp contrast to what happened weeks before in Uvalde, Texas. That’s a Thanksgiving story worth toasting.
And while we’re at it, there’s the story of Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Richard Fierro, who was with his family at the Club Q nightclub in Colorado Springs on Saturday when a gunman opened fire, killing five — including the boyfriend of Fierro’s daughter. Fierro says he “went into combat mode” and rushed the gunman, bringing him down quickly and helping disarm him, thus limiting the bloodshed. It’s hard to summon this kind of courage amid violence and chaos, but sometimes, you never know when a hero might be sitting at the very next table.
Ukraine defies Putin
Nine months ago, Ukraine stood at the precipice. Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed committed not just to war but to wiping Ukraine off the map as an independent, sovereign nation. He argued that Ukraine was an artificial creation and that its history was always attached to Russia and the Soviet Union. Putin amassed hundreds of thousands of troops, along with tanks and heavy artillery, along the border and, in February, commenced an all-out, brutal invasion. Western analysts predicted Ukraine’s central government would collapse quickly and that the Kyiv government would declare defeat within a few weeks if not days.
The outlook grew bleaker with each passing day as evidence of war crimes mounted. Putin targeted schools and apartment buildings. Troops mowed down civilians trying to take cover in buildings. Even refugees came under attack as they fled to the border of neighboring Poland. The choices facing Western leaders were to let Ukraine be consumed whole by Russia or intervene, stop the slaughter, and risk provoking World War III.
Before the outside world had time to react and come up with strategies to help Ukraine fight back, President Volodymir Zelensky was already visiting the front lines and working from secret locations to organize troops and untrained civilian volunteers, using whatever weaponry was available, to challenge Russian troops at every turn. They managed to stall the invasion while the pipeline of U.S. and NATO weaponry got organized. Once that extra aid started arriving, Ukraine was more than ready to take on a far superior Russian enemy and begin driving the invaders back. The war is far from over, but who would have predicted nine months ago the outcome that the world is watching — and marveling at — today?
Of course, there are those who believe war is not the answer. They apparently believed that Ukrainians should accept their fate, give in, and hope for some kind of miraculous negotiated settlement with a mass murderer named Putin. It’s a naïve notion at best. Lest we wax too political on Thanksgiving Day, we believe the only response was the courageous one Ukrainians adopted and the vast majority of Americans supported. This was one clear case of an entire people refusing to give in to tyranny. Putin’s nose is bloodied and his ego brought down more than a few notches. We’ll toast to that.
To the moon and beyond
In the wee hours of Nov. 16, a NASA rocket lit up the skies over Florida, formally kicking off America’s return to the moon almost half a century after the last Apollo landing. The uncrewed test flight took the rocket around the moon, where it continues to orbit. It’s part of a program aptly named Artemis (in Greek mythology, the twin sister of Apollo) with the eventual goal of establishing a permanent presence on the moon and creating a launching point for future missions to Mars. That’s one giant leap, indeed.
Today, NASA’s efforts are supplemented by two major U.S. commercial ventures — SpaceX and Blue Origin — whose respective (and highly controversial) billionaire owners, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, have the financial resources to invest in cutting-edge technology and test new ideas to make space exploration safer, more cost-efficient and even fun. SpaceX has worked out ways for booster rockets to return safely to floating pads, gently landing upright and making them reusable, potentially yielding billions of dollars in savings and providing the kinds of technology that can help make moon (and Mars) landings go more smoothly than the lunar landing modules of the past.
A ballot box boost
The Nov. 8 midterm elections brought some especially good news for the preservation of democracy: In more than half a dozen battleground-state races around the country where election deniers were seeking offices charged with running state elections, not a single one was victorious. In five states — Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona — candidates who denied the validity of the 2020 presidential election lost races for secretary of state, which would have allowed them a dangerous level of control over future state election results. And in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where governors hold unusual sway over election outcomes, gubernatorial candidates who had telegraphed a willingness to meddle in election outcomes also lost.
In several cases, Republicans in other races on the same ballots did far better than the election deniers, indicating that even Republican-leaning voters understood the danger of putting these particular candidates in charge of these particular offices. Democracy emerged the big winner on Nov. 8 because Republicans, Democrats and independents recognized what was at stake.
For a lot of American families, the Thanksgiving table is a much quieter, more cordial place to be this year because there’s less to argue about. That’s worth toasting, because after all the turmoil of the past few years, America deserves a break.