It hasn’t been a banner year. The United States is bogged down in a dispiriting war in Iraq, and North Korea and Iran continue to flout Washington’s warnings and “red lines” with seeming impunity. But here are some things to be grateful for even in the Thanksgiving season of our discontent:
#ad#‐ Democracy. We might be having trouble exporting it overseas, but it still works at home. If a political party becomes corrupt and ineffectual, the voters will find a way to force it from office, no matter how many institutional advantages it has stacked in its favor. The GOP just learned this lesson, and as soon as Democrats forget it, they will get a thumping of their own.
‐ Milton Friedman. The late economist was one of the 20th century’s most effective advocates for freedom, helping extend free markets here at home and spread them to places like China. He was a great scourge of inflation and helped provide Ronald Reagan with the intellectual ammunition to slay it in the early 1980s. His life — and his legacy — is an enduring testament to the power of ideas.
‐ The Wounded Warrior Project . More than 20,000 U.S. soldiers have been wounded in Iraq. The Wounded Warrior Project provides services to the most grievously injured and their families to help them return to civilian life.
‐ Muhammad Yunus. He won the Nobel Peace Prize this year, which is not necessarily a recommendation, since the prize often goes to anti-American hucksters. But he deserved it. His idea of microcredits — giving extremely small loans to extremely poor people to help them start businesses — has been a revolutionary tool in fighting poverty.
‐ YouTube. Politicians’ gaffes, late-night comics’ latest bits, inspired and zany clips from amateurs the world over — all a click or two away. Why didn’t someone think of this before?
‐ The anti-race hustlers. Bill Cosby famously has spoken out about the cultural problems that hold African-Americans back more than racism or other structural obstacles. National Public Radio’s Juan Williams has added intellectual heft to Cosby’s argument with his new book, Enough. They are brave men.
‐ Save the Chimps . It and other organizations provide care and spacious homes for chimpanzees that have been used — and often abused — in entertainment and medical research, or as people’s pets. Their work is featured in a new PBS documentary. If chimp advocates seem fanatical, it is only right that someone go out of his way for these intelligent and affecting creatures.
‐ The pope. Whatever your faith or denomination, you have to be grateful that the West has such a figure, concerned with reconciling faith and reason, and operating always in the spirit of charity and love. Given other forms of religious expression the world has witnessed recently, this is a blessing indeed.
‐ Saturday afternoons. Maybe college football has, as the critics say, become a terrible racket, distorting university life and the ideal of amateur athletics. But for the average viewer the only response can be, “Who cares?” It’s just too much fun.
‐ Mukhtaran Bibi. This young Pakistani woman was sentenced to gang-rape by her village elders after her younger brother was accused of having a relationship with a woman of another tribe. She fought back and had — a rarity in Pakistan — her attackers prosecuted. She now is an internationally recognized voice for the rights of Pakistani women, who are often punished for being raped. The country’s lower house has just passed a change in the country’s sick rape laws, a baby step toward civilized norms.
‐ Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for falling on a grenade to save his fellow Marines from the blast. That sort of sacrifice and bravery is typical of U.S. troops in Iraq, but it is too often ignored. The New York Times didn’t mention Dunham’s incredible act, or his medal, even though he was from upstate New York. We should never forget.
© 2006 by King Features Syndicate