Praise to seekers of peace and justice

Thanksgiving is a good day for reconnecting. The importance of friends and family was never so clear to me as it was during the COVID-19 shutdown in the spring of 2020. I felt so isolated, I was concerned about my mental health.

Since then, I have been uplifted by many acts of kindness I witnessed, whether in local shops or in WhatsApp calls with struggling friends in Africa. From people with plenty to people with nothing, I have encountered generous, brave spirits who provided soothing respite from the fanaticism and strife reflected in the news and social media. Their grace, whether amid light or darkness, is a victory in itself.

The strength of character and simple goodness of these people lowered my stress level as I watched a parade of threats to our liberties march by. That helped me avoid clinging desperately to every meager scrap of good news that came along.

For example, The Advocate recently had a headline, “Vatican Rules Transgender Catholics and Babies of Same-Sex Couples Can Be Baptized in the Church.” That is welcome as far as it goes, but feels too little and too late.

Though brought up in the Catholic Church, I managed to get through much of my life as a gay man outside its good graces. How grateful do they expect me to be for their baby steps of tolerance? How long is one expected to wait wretchedly in the cold before being welcomed into the feast?

Happily, I am on a more solid footing with my family. Thanksgiving dinner will be at my youngest sister’s house. I suppose it is a blessing that the Republican voters in the family will be at a different gathering. I love them all, mind you, but who needs an argument over whether America should invade Mexico, elect a demented dictator wannabe, or whether Nikki Haley was right to call Vivek Ramaswamy “scum” at a recent debate?

I suppose we could say things like, “Hey turncoat, please pass the stuffing,” but that hardly sounds familial. Besides, my plate at Thanksgiving is so full to start with that I barely have room for pie, much less seconds of anything. That’s something to be grateful for: a day when overeating is considered a sign of patriotism, so no one will fault my dietary choices.

On the other hand, I could warm to a discussion of whether Sen. Tim Scott will drop girlfriend Mindy now that he has suspended his presidential campaign. But beards are useful in Washington; maybe she’ll settle for being a member of the senatorial wives club.

Would this be a bad time to mention that the Justice Department has investigated a high-end brothel network with politicians as customers? Personally, I think we should let them off as long as they didn’t spill national secrets, charge it as a work-related expense, or demonize others for indulgences they themselves were enjoying. Otherwise, hey, we all get lonely.

I am not especially grateful that fashion critic Vanessa Friedman of The New York Times saw fit to describe Ivanka Trump arriving at her father’s civil fraud trial “in a navy wool coat and navy pantsuit, a black leather tote clutched in one hand, tiny pearl studs in her ears and with her blond hair falling in soft waves around her face, the picture of gentle, pulled-together professionalism and good will.”

Really? Ivanka certainly should be able to dress nicely after she and husband Jared used their positions to grift fortunes from the Chinese and Saudis.

Nor am I grateful that Speaker “MAGA Mike” Johnson, one of God’s answers to those who asked how much worse it could get, flew to Paris for a right-wing confab a week before a looming government shutdown.

I am thankful, however, for the journalists digging up the goods (or bads) on Johnson’s far-right record; for the prosecutors holding Donald Trump accountable for his various crimes; for my fellow citizens defending women’s reproductive rights; for Democrats stepping up to challenge right-wing officeholders (for example, Colin Allred running against Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, and Lucas Kunce running against Sen. Josh Hawley in Missouri).

I am not thankful that the world is on fire. It seems that hate is built into our DNA. The people I am most grateful for this Thanksgiving are those who dedicate themselves to overcoming the destructive proclivity of humankind. Here’s to the peacemakers, who persevere despite crossfire from all sides.

Amid the tumult, may you find sustenance for body and soul.

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