I want to write something for Thanksgiving, but what can I say that has not already been said a million times? I am not sure anyone needs yet one more list of things we should be thankful for. So instead of that, I am going to take inventory of both the good and the bad, by discussing not only things to be thankful for, but also things that have a long way to go before they will merit anyone’s thankfulness. And I will do that in the context of my usual goal of transcending boundaries of gender, race, religion, class and sexual orientation. In the gender sphere, great progress is being made in understanding and accepting transgender individuals. This has been helped by the publicity surrounding a few trans celebrities, most recently Caitlin Jenner. At this year’s Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, however, I heard at least a couple of people point out that the condition of a few trans people who are rich and famous by no means reflects the situation that most trans people are in. Discrimination against them is still rampant, in both the public and private sectors. And that is not the worst of it. Each year an alarming number of trans folk, especially trans women of color, are murdered, often simply because they are trans. Their suicide rate is also much higher than the national average.
The racial situation in America is a portrait of extremes. We finally have a black President and the polls about Republican Presidential candidates currently show a black physician ahead of experienced, well-known politicians. But those luminaries must be cold comfort to most blacks living in Ferguson and Baltimore, and just now a video has been released showing what appears to be a cold-blooded murder of a black man by a white Chicago police officer.
In the world of religion, it is presently hard to see past the horrific violence perpetrated by Muslim extremists who want to impose their religious rules and values upon everyone else. But although Christians are not engaged in wholesale acts of terror at present, many of them want to use the government to do the same with their religious precepts. About the only cause for thankfulness is that many religious leaders are speaking out against violence and coercion as tools of religion. Issues regarding class are also heating up. The privileged status of “one percent” has become a rallying cry for those who see income disparity as a major problem. The power of the new “billionaire class” is widely regarded as a threat to democracy itself. Personally, I think disparity itself is less important than the stagnation of income levels for the middle class and the number of people who are slipping downward into poverty. I think the average person’s own standard of living matters more than how many billions the Koch brothers, Bill Gates, or Warren Buffet have amassed. In fact, if there is a bright side it may be that Gates, Buffet and an increasing number of other billionaires are using some of their vast wealth to help other people. And then there is sexual orientation. Nowhere else has there been such a clear reason for thankfulness as in the legalization of same sex marriage . It is a major triumph for equal treatment of al people under the law. But there’s the catch. The law can only do so much. In addition to considerable resistance against the law, there is and will continue to be a great deal of social discrimination. For many, sexual orientation is a deep gut issue. Full acceptance of gays into our social fabric is probably a long way off.
That is how things are as of Thanksgiving Day, 2015. A very mixed bag. A lot to celebrate and be thankful for. And a lot to deplore. It is a time for celebration but also to acknowledge that we have a long way to go. It is a time for both hope and determination.