The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set news policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Susan Young is the Bangor Daily News opinion editor.
For many people, next week kicks off a season of gratitude. First comes Thanksgiving, a time historically to thank the Indigenous people for their help of early white settlers in America. Today, it is a time when many are thankful for a big family gathering with a bountiful feast. Or maybe they’re giving thanks that their favored football team won the big game.
Hanukkah starts on the evening of Dec. 7. Jews around the world will celebrate the miracle of a tiny amount of oil lasting for eight nights, shining a bit of light on a treacherous world.
Then there’s Christmas, meant as a time to mark the miracle of Jesus’ birth, but more recently, a time to indulge in colorful decorations, prodigious gift giving and endless snacking at holiday parties.
So, how at a time meant for great joy, are so many people feeling so sad, so hopeless?
It is hard to feel thankful when our state is still mourning a murderous rampage in Lewiston that left 18 Mainers dead and 13 injured. There is no gratitude when it seems clear that our lax gun laws and broken health care system means that there will tragically be more killings in other U.S. communities. We will again mourn but wonder why steps were not taken to stop it.
Gratitude isn’t the emotion that surfaces when our elected politicians fail to do their most basic jobs — leading our country. Yes, we’re thankful that there will not be a government shutdown this weekend. But, funding the government is such a basic job of Congress that passing a budget shouldn’t be cause for cheers.
And, the funding bill that was passed this week is of such short duration that lawmakers will soon be back to squabbling over spending plans with another deadline looming.
There isn’t much to be thankful for when a Republican U.S. senator challenges a witness to an actual fight — and meant it. Nor when a former president, who was twice impeached and has been indicted on nearly 100 charges — not to mention his misogynistic, xenophobic and racist comments and actions – is the frontrunner for the Republicans presidential nomination.
Gratitude was buried when Hamas terrorists attacked and killed more than a thousand people in Israel and took more than 200 hostage. It was the worst attack on Jewish people since the Holocaust. The rampage was predictably met with a brutal onslaught of Gaza by Israeli forces.
The events of Oct. 7 and Israel’s response also unleashed a wave of antisemitism, in the U.S. and around the world, that echoes chants and slurs in Europe in the 1930s. These shouts to kill Jews, the repeating of slogans about eradicating Israel are a gut punch to the child of a Holocaust survivor.
So, what am I thankful for this Thanksgiving?
Number one, I’m thankful that you are reading this column. I know you don’t always agree with me and some readers think I am an idiot. But, here you are week after week reading the words I commit to a computer screen and paper. I am especially thankful to those readers who send me kind notes and appreciative voicemails. They mean more than you know.
I am thankful to my colleagues at the BDN who, especially in recent weeks, have done extraordinary work, often with little sleep and an emotional weight of stories both tragic and heartwarming.
I am thankful that I and my family are healthy, well fed and beautifully housed. I know this is a bounty not enjoyed by far too many.
I am thankful that my daughters are independent and strong willed (not things I relished when they were younger), and that they speak out for and seek to lift up those who need it. It also helps that they are funny and beautiful.
I am thankful that my husband offers support and assistance for a career in journalism, which is anything but a straightforward 9-to-5 job. I’m glad he sometimes even reads what I write.
As we enter this season of gratitude, there is far too much darkness in the world. But, only we can be the light. We have the power to banish the darkness.
You can do this through simple things if you are able. Donate to charity if you can. Volunteer your time. Let someone know you are thinking of them, that you appreciate the work they do.
Advocate for change. Write or call your representatives, in the Legislature and Congress, and let them know what law changes matter to you. And, vote. There are presidential, congressional and many other elections next year. Casting a ballot is one of the most powerful things you can do.
In the meantime, don’t forget to thaw the turkey, and you can never have too much stuffing.