OP-ED | What’s There to be Thankful For, Anyway?
This has been an exhausting, dispiriting, bewildering, and painful 12 months. It’s only a year since the election, but we still haven’t begun to reckon with everything that we’ve lost, and with all the damage our egomaniacal liar of a president and all those demons who surround him have yet to do.
One bright spot in this bleak November is Thanksgiving, which arrives next week. So let’s give thanks for what we have, and let our gratitude and hope steel us for whatever 2018 will bring.
What am I thankful for?
Believe it or not, I’m thankful for the loudness and chaos of our democracy. Maybe democracies shouldn’t be too orderly. Maybe the yelling and screaming, while it often hurts stability and drives people into extremism, is also a bulwark against a muffling, smothering silence. I’d rather shout than be too afraid to speak, and I’d rather see all-caps ranting on Facebook than a dull parade of state-sponsored propaganda.
For example, President Trump was on Twitter earlier today insulting our independent media and boasting about how great his Asia trip was. The replies were almost entirely Americans cursing him out and calling him a liar.
Americans are often sneered at because we’re so loud. But right now, I’m thankful for it. May we never sit silent.
I’m also thankful for state and local government. As messed up as the legislature in Connecticut has been these past few years, something of a miracle occurred when a handful of moderate Democrats helped pass a Republican budget. That budget was vetoed, but it paved the way for the bipartisan, consensus budget we have now. That budget’s still a mess, but it broke the agonizing pattern of inept Democratic majorities dragging something half-baked out of the oven and forcing the rest of us to swallow it. It showed us that things don’t always have to be the same, and that we can change when we need to. It may also have shown us what the pattern of the future can be.
In my own town of Enfield, our longtime mayor Scott Kaupin stepped down this year after decades of selfless service to the town. Anyone who dismisses all politicians as soulless and greedy ought to meet Scott, who is a reminder that there are a lot of good people serving at all levels of government. Here’s to you, Mr. Mayor, I’m thankful we had you as long as we did.
There’s also been a bit of a debate in my town about whether to change our charter to a strong mayor form of government, and away from our current council-manager form. I think having a town manager instead of a strong mayor is great, mind you, but I’m glad we’re talking about it. Democracy always needs to be tinkered with and made better, and I’m thankful for everyone who is invested in that.
I’m also thankful for this place. Connecticut is beautiful, it’s unique, and it’s home. We’re always so gloomy, here, but we get so stuck in our inferiority complex, our depression, our flaws, and our stubbornness that we forget to look around and really see our surroundings. I’m thankful for the lakes and streams, the wooded mountains, the wide, lazy river, and the rocks and sand of the coast. I’m thankful for the bricks, concrete, and steel of the cities, and the white churches and quiet greens of the small towns.
Most of all, I’m thankful for the resilience, tolerance, stubbornness, and creativity of our people. Even though we all come from different places, have different histories and identities, speak different languages, and walk different paths, this strange little state still manages to bind us together into a chaotic, beautiful mess.
That’s true of this whole country, too. If you take away all the slogans, all the high ideals, and all the myths of history, the only thing that really connects every single one of us is the land under our feet. It’s my hope that we can learn to share it, and to live together with all the wonderfully varied kinds of people who are here.
I can feel us all pulling apart, as the old ways of being an American are less and less relevant to who we are now. Somehow, we have to find a way to be neighbors and friends again. I hope it’s not too late.
Lastly, I am thankful for a warm little house, for my wife, for my friends, and for all of you. Let’s keep talking. Let’s keep shouting! And then let’s push forward, together, into the heart of the storm.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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