November 22, 1963 is the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Whatever one may think of JFK, it is a day that lives in infamy. Even when I was in High School in the early 70's, I looked back at that day as the start of an "era of assassinations": JFK, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and so many others.
And there was so much other violence and killing in the 60's, directed against those who sought a better America and a better world. I turned 18 after the end of the draft, but I remember asking my Mom in first grade if I'd have to fight in Viet Nam. My personal life was peaceful and protected, but violence was very much visible in the nation and in the world as I grew up.
Since then, the forces of violence in our society have made great gains, to the extent that today hardly anyone seems to question torture, targeted killings, and other forms of violence for political purposes (when done by Americans). This includes what is now the longest war in US history, which some think should be extended indefinitely.
So what to say on this day dedicated to giving thanks? I give thanks for those who put their safety and their lives on the line for freedom, both at home & abroad, both in protest and in war. I give thanks that we still, despite the forces of violence & hatred, have a system of government that allows dissent. And I give thanks that, despite a few crazies who called for use of the "bullet box" if they lost this election, and despite the larger number of crazies calling for secession, we still have a society that on the whole accepts the results of elections.
Gorbachev once told about being ambassador to the United States during Nixon's presidency. One night Moscow called to warn him that Nixon would resign the next day. Gorbachev remembered that he couldn't sleep, imagining the tanks and troops that would fill the streets in the morning. But when he looked out, he was amazed to see no troops, not even any police, but just people going about their usual morning business. And, eventually, a single helicopter taking off from in front of the White House, which circled once and then went on its way.
We truly have an exceptional country. I don't mean that in the sense of the false patriots, who claim that we are the best and indeed can do no wrong. I mean that in the sense that we make terrible mistakes and commit great injustices, but have still held on to a system of government that holds out promise of non-violently correcting those mistakes.
Like Martin Luther King Jr. I say on this day: "I haven't lost faith, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
[My thanks to ThousandWatts for inspiring this diary.]