A Very Freethought Thanksgiving
November 24, 2011
Hello, all! So I wanted to give a nod to our secular harvest celebrations by saying a few things about what we have to be thankful for. I know it is a little cheesy, and that there are plenty of things to be discontented about, and that European colonization and Manifest Destiny caused genocide for whole tribes of people on this continent and abroad, but it is important to think about the good news sometimes, too (you cynics).
What do we have to be thankful for? SCIENCE, first. Advances in science and technology should have us all in awe every day. Recently, NASA extended the Mercury Messenger mission, and developed a “super-black material that absorbs light” and “promises to open new frontiers in space technology.” Read more about nanotubes and things that will blow your mind here.
Second, MEDICINE! In California earlier this month, surgeons were able to successfully separate twin girls who were conjoined at the chest and abdomen.
The good news about medicine doesn’t stop there. In the last fifty years, we’ve created vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, pneumonia, meningitis, hepatitis, and lyme disease (though the anti-vax agenda is undermining these crucial advances). Scientists think that in the next twenty years we will find cures for, or develop treatments that will allow people to live better with, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, blindness, depression, multiple sclerosis, alcoholism, and anxiety disorders. Read the information at ilookforwardto.com.
I don’t know what to classify number three as, but WORLD! President Obama has said that the Iraq war is coming to an end and that troops will be coming home by the end of the year. It’s not a perfect ending, and people have a lot of strong feelings about this war continuing for so many years, but I am thankful that it is going to be over.
Next, MISSISSIPPI! Okay, I want to say something like “women” or “society,” but really, this is just about how glad I am that Mississippi did not pass the proposed “personhood” amendment that was up for a vote this November. The blocked legislation could have made abortion, some birth control, and some fertility treatments (like in-vitro fertilization) illegal. Women’s reproductive rights are still under attack, but this was definitely a win in an unlikely place, or rather, this was an avoidance of a potentially huge loss.
CRIME is down. “Violent crime dropped 6% in 2010, marking the fourth straight year-to-year decline” and property crime is down, too (from USA Today). Crime rates have fallen, some for the last several years, and for many possible reasons, but it is important to remember that watching the news will likely skew your idea of how safe we are. They don’t usually report on the non-sensational things, like crime being down.
What about HEALTH? Okay, we definitely have problems in this area (especially now that pizza and fries are vegetables), but the number of people in the US who smoke is now less than 20%, the lowest it has been since long before 1960. Plus, people who do smoke are smoking less on average. And, of course, people are living longer, too. The life expectancy 100 years ago was just over 50, and now we can expect to live nearly 80 years.
We could go on and on like this. In fact, there are sites like Good News Network that only report positive news. It may sound a bit like sticking your fingers in your ears when it comes to reality, but sometimes you need to know what is right with the world. If you’re having a bad day, check out the “heroes” section at Happy News and give thanks that there are good people out there who will risk life, limb, or more, to help someone else.
I am going to take today to be thankful for the abundance that I have. I can afford to have a big meal with my friends, in my apartment, with heat and electricity, health, and my husband. Remember, not everyone has these rights, and certainly not everyone has these luxuries. You can help by spreading your abundance to those who have not had the same privileges that we were given thanks to circumstance, or society, or the hard work of our parents.
About the Author: Dren Asselmeier
Dren Asselmeier does student outreach as a campus organizer at the Center for Inquiry. She got her start as an organizer while interning at Center for Inquiry–Michigan in 2008. She stayed until 2010 as a volunteer campus coordinator, and was CFI–Michigan Freethinker of the Year in 2009, as well as president of Center for Inquiry–Grand Valley State University. Dren has a B.A. in English from Grand Valley State University. She is the president of Buffalo Area Non-Profit Professionals, an event volunteer at Buffalo Subversive Theatre, and a contributor to the Buffalo Storyteller Hour.
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