Still thankful today

Published 4:35 pm Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The eyes of the world have been focused on Ferguson, Mo., this week in the aftermath of a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer there for shooting and killing an 18-year-old black man who, according to eyewitnesses and physical evidence, had attacked the officer in his police car and tried to take his weapon.

The looting, violence, arson and anarchy that ensued following the announcement of the grand jury’s decision did violence not just to the communities that have experienced it but to a legal process that should be respected in a nation claiming the rule of law as a foundational principle.

With crowds of demonstrators expected to continue to gather over the Thanksgiving holiday — and with affected merchants, many of them minorities, continuing to pick up the pieces of their looted and burned businesses — some people might be tempted to wonder what there is to be thankful for this year. Our nation looks like it’s disintegrating before our very eyes, and truly innocent people are being sacrificed for a politically motivated narrative that is unsupported by the facts.

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In light of the apparent continuing breakdown of our society, is there anything for which our society can be thankful today?

First, we can be thankful that the police are not our enemies, despite the vile and cynical claims of people who hope to earn fame, fortune and power by destroying the pillars of our nation. Not every cop is a good person, just like not every person is a good person. But police do more good in both black and white communities around the nation every day than just about any other group one could name.

Second, not every young black man is a criminal. The vast majority of young black men, just like young men of every race and creed in America, want to improve themselves and their communities. They love their families and want to do what it takes to give their children the chances they didn’t have.

Third, we can be thankful that not all white people are bigots. The vast majority of white people in America have embraced Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a world in which we judge people by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin. Our nation has made incredible progress in matters of race, and much of that progress has been a result of the changing attitudes of white people through the years. The very fact that we have a black president today is a result of millions of white voters who have moved beyond bigotry.

And finally, we can be thankful that a majority of Americans put their desire for a truly better nation ahead of a desire for manufactured political gain. If those Americans can speak louder than the ones looking to score political points, we will have even more for which to be thankful.