By: Robert Scott
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
Thanksgiving is about tradition: about families, about remembering times past and looking forward to the future. It is a time for us to count our blessings – the many blessings we share as Americans. With the headlines filled with rioting in such faraway places as Hong Kong and South America, with terrorists fighting and autocrats growing in power in the Middle East, and with political controversy at home about how differently our flawed government in the White House and in the Capitol interpret our Constitution, it is easy to forget how fortunate we are, right here in Edgefield County, South Carolina.
We live in a free society, where varied opinions are not only allowed, they are sought after. Ours is a system in which free elections are the regular way of changing things, with the irregular but still legal means of impeachment as an exception when changing things just won’t wait. Or, if our elected leaders cannot agree what to do and leave it up to the electorate, we can decide perhaps not to change things, to stay the course. Among our blessings is that we, the people, can partner with our elected representatives to make that decision; most societies around the world don’t work that way, and most people truly envy the political freedoms we take for granted here.
Our economy this year is robust, not as robust or as evenhanded as we would like, perhaps, but robust. South Carolina has its lowest unemployment rate in eight or ten years, and more jobs have been produced than have been lost again this year; purchasing power of those earning the lowest wages may be less than it has been since the 1980s, but almost everybody who needs a job can find one; as a teacher I would give our leaders at least partial credit for that answer. Again, we have blessings to count, that hunger and forced idleness are rare, this year in South Carolina
There are many thousands of refugees seeking a place alongside us in the United States this Thanksgiving, people of all ages who are separated from their homes and desperately seeking a safe place to stay, some alone and others with their families. Those of us whose families have been here for decades, generations, or even centuries have acquired that safety as one more thing to be thankful for, and we need to decide how we can share it with those who desire nothing more than to become our newest neighbors.
Thanksgiving is the most American of holidays. It is not a religious holiday like Christmas or Hanukah, it is not a patriotic holiday like Independence Day or Veterans’ Day; it is at the same time none of those and all of those. It is a celebration of those things we are thankful for as Americans, regardless of our religion – or lack of religion. Thanksgiving is for Protestants like those in the first Thanksgiving back in the 1600’s. It is for Catholics and other Christians, too, without being tied to any of those religions. And it is for Muslim Americans, Jewish Americans, and Americans of all stripes– a time to celebrate being American, and being thankful for all that entails.
The legend of the first Thanksgiving centers on Native Americans welcoming those new immigrants fleeing religious persecution in the Old World. They may not have been “people of the Book” like the Hebrews, the Christians, or the Muslims, but those American Indians knew what is perhaps the first tradition of America – welcoming the stranger. May all of us in Edgefield, in South Carolina, and in America keep our great traditions this week, enjoy our time with friends and family, and work as hard as we can to share these, the best of times, with those here and elsewhere who are less fortunate.