Blessed be the truth tellers, and those who heed them

Being grateful that the midterm elections turned out better than expected is like a constipated person being grateful for a bowel movement: that’s fine, but you might also try adjusting your diet.

Elie Mystal of The Nation points out that extreme gerrymanders approved by conservative courts helped Republicans win seats in the House of Representatives. That voters rebuked election deniers and upheld abortion rights does not change conservatives’ structural advantage nor end the right-wing Supreme Court supermajority.

One of the biggest lies going is that our country — not just the Senate — is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. That stems from each state receiving two senators regardless of population as well as the Senate filibuster, gerrymandering, and the Electoral College. Eliminate them and America would be a democracy.

This is my Thanksgiving column, believe it or not. I am duly thankful for journalists like Mystal, who faced persistent sniping long before Elon Musk’s $8 “blue check special” resulted in a rash of fake Twitter accounts being validated.

I am thankful for the workings of karma, as illustrated by Musk’s self-inflicted problems. Karma can also be seen in Vladimir Putin’s withdrawal from Kherson after annexing it; but he left death and destruction behind, and Ukraine faces a bleak winter.

Instead of embracing false optimism like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, let’s give thanks for the values that helped save our constitutional republic, and to those who upheld them — even as we stare down the reactionary forces who remain unyielding, like 11th Circuit Chief Judge William Pryor mocking journalists like Mystal at a Federalist Society dinner.

Conservatives may have lacked an honest case against affirmative action at oral arguments before the Supreme Court (why should legacy students be privileged but not descendants of enslaved persons?); but with a 6-3 majority, they don’t have to care. I am thankful for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, but due to Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, she will mostly be writing dissents.

Democrats’ retention of their Senate majority strikes a huge blow against the authoritarians. If Raphael Warnock wins his Dec. 6 Georgia runoff, the resulting 51 Democratic senators will undercut Joe Manchin’s hostage-taking. If Republicans win a thin House majority, their infighting will showcase their extremism and incapacity to govern.

Democracy has won a reprieve, not a victory. As I relax on a mild autumn evening, I think of the LGBTQ refugees in Kenya whom I have helped in recent years. Looking out on my city, I am grateful for my opportunities, legal protections, and health insurance, which I cannot take for granted.

I lost an old friend a few months ago, and another friend was recently injured in a car accident. Our little light is surrounded by darkness. I worry about failing to achieve my goals. Yet I am still here, aware of my limited time and appreciative of the support of family and friends.

By contrast, the refugees in Kenya are at risk of homelessness, starvation, sickness, and hate crimes from a hostile population as they await resettlement to safer countries. I am moved by their courage and resilience, their belief in themselves despite the intolerance around them. But there are too few helpers.

Closer to home, I am grateful for those who have loved this country more than it has loved them — for their endurance and faithful witness even in the face of deadly bias.

An example occurred on January 7 in Atlanta when screenwriter and director Ryan Coogler had guns pulled on him by police simply for attempting to withdraw his own money from a bank. The prestige and revenue his filmmaking brought to that city made no difference.

Coogler kept his composure, and the worst did not happen. Wakanda Forever, his beautiful sequel to Black Panther, opened on November 11. His gifts include not just his craft but his truth-telling and decency. Considering the horrors his people have endured, the golden spirit that shines in his work is an act of grace.

Despite endless slanders and scapegoating by white unchristian nationalists, our nation’s diversity is essential and enduring. The rainbow wave of LGBTQ election winners, for example, includes Governors-elect Maura Healey in Massachusetts and Tina Kotek in Oregon. Youth were represented when Maxwell Alejandro Frost of Florida was elected the first Gen Z member of Congress. New leaders are emerging.

It was announced on November 3 that Capital Pride Alliance won the license to host WorldPride 2025 in DC. That will annoy all the right people.

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