As the days get shorter, and the nights get darker and colder, it can be easy to let one’s mood sink into a reflection of the climate. That’s why, even though we may not be able to enjoy it basking in the warmth of natural sunlight, it’s especially vital to those of us who live in these northern climes to have a holiday that encourages to contemplate what we’re thankful for this time of year – and this year in particular.

For one, consider where we were as a country this time a year ago. We were just recovering from yet another bitterly divisive presidential election, and while the first COVID-19 vaccines had been developed, they had yet to actually be administered to anyone. Although businesses had begun to reopen over the summer, we faced the prospect of a winter surge without vaccines being readily available. Today, not only are vaccines readily available to all who want them (and yes, you should go get vaccinated), we’re beginning to roll out booster shots to the general population as well. The successful roll-out of the vaccines over the past year has made travel and large events possible again, so many of us have been able to see friends and family who we haven’t seen in a year, as well as attend concerts, theater and sporting events in person. Perhaps this holiday season, you’ll be seeing loved ones you haven’t been able to see in the last 12 months. That’s certainly cause for thanks.

While the pandemic certainly had a massive negative effect on the economy both domestically and globally, here in the United States, it could have been a whole lot worse. Under two successive administrations, Congress and the White House managed to pass stimulus packages that cushioned the economic impact of the pandemic on employees, employers and governments across the country. It was widely expected among economists that state and local governments all over the nation would face massive budget shortfalls, as they did during the 2008 recession. But thanks to well-timed federal stimulus, that fear largely didn’t come to pass. That meant that in most states and cities, governments didn’t have to grapple with twin crises – responding to the pandemic while simultaneously having to cut spending elsewhere. Instead, they could focus their energy on the imminent emergency. That’s something for which we should all give thanks.

The federal economic response in both administrations did a better job during this downturn at funneling aid toward individuals, rather than just large corporations. That’s not to claim that big businesses and industries didn’t benefit from economic relief during the pandemic: They certainly did. However, individuals saw direct, tangible economic relief as well, from enhanced unemployment and child tax credits to those stimulus payments. Politicians in both parties in Washington, D.C., seemed to have learned since 2008 that if you’re going to bail out big businesses, you should also send some aid directly to individuals as well, so they don’t feel left out of the picture. Hopefully that’s a lesson that they carry forth in to future financial downturns.

Although the attack on the U.S. Capitol in January was certainly a sad and terrifying moment, it did not signify the imminent collapse of our democracy, but that we have to be wary of threats to it. The rioters were unable to impede the peaceful transition of power. The Electoral College votes were certified, and Joe Biden was sworn in as scheduled. Not only did the rioters fail in their goal, but they’re also being vigorously prosecuted by federal law enforcement, as is appropriate. While it’s a shame that public opinion of the event has hardened along party lines, it’s not a surprise these days. Still, we should be thankful that more than 200 years of our democratic history can’t simply be erased in an instant by a ragtag mob. Instead, we’re moving on towards another election cycle, one where we have the chance to again demonstrate to the world the strength of our democracy.

So, the events of the past year have been a challenge – both for the country as a whole and many of us individually – but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have anything to be thankful for this week. While it’s easy to take a look at the tumult enveloping the world and feel as if things are only getting worse, in fact there are some things that are improving. Try to remember that, even if you couldn’t find anything to be thankful for last Thursday.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @jimfossel


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