At a time of loss, 10 reasons to be grateful

There will be sadness in many homes this Thanksgiving, as families mourn the absence of husbands, wives, parents, and other relatives and friends who were victims of September's mindless terrorism. Our hearts go out to the bereaved.

But still, we are not without developments at home and abroad this year for which we can be thankful.

Here is my list of 10:

1. The American spirit undimmed. Americans may have been jolted by the events of Sept. 11, and the later scare of anthrax, but they have not gone into a funk. They go to work. They go to church. They play. They are coping cheerfully with such inconveniences as long security lines at airports. If Osama bin Laden and his followers had hoped to bring America to its knees, they have badly miscalculated. The nation is united. Its resolve to seek justice is strong.

2. Freedom at work. In Afghanistan, the stultifying hold of the Taliban has been broken. We do not know what the future holds, but for the moment, freed townspeople smile with joy. Lines of men at barber jobs shed the hitherto-mandatory beards. Women bare their faces, no longer in fear of whippings by the Taliban enforcers, as they divest themselves of their oppressive burqas. Freedom's pull around the world is powerful. At least for the moment, one more country has been caught up in its embrace.

3. A resilient economy. Already reeling, the American economy could have been grievously damaged by the terrorist assault of Sept. 11. But it has proved remarkably durable, as evidenced by a stock market that has shrugged off the losses of two months ago and appears stable again.

4. Nuclear weapons reduced. Russia and the United States forged a new alliance and agreed to cut their nuclear stockpiles by about two-thirds over the next 10 years. Differences remain, but Presidents Bush and Putin, coming from markedly different backgrounds, seem to have discovered mutual trust, maybe friendship, and certainly a common cause in the ongoing war against terrorism.

5. A world more tender. Following incredible acts of heroism on Sept. 11 and an outpouring of support for the families of those killed, more kindness and generosity abound. Americans give blood. They send money and open their homes to the needy. Children send their dollars to the White House to aid Afghan children. Volunteers from across the country have flown to New York to help in rescue and repair. There is more gentility and caring in our lives.

6. Hollywood mutes the violence. Chastened by the public's revulsion with terrorism, TV and movie producers turn down the decibel level of the violence that has long characterized their product. Some violence-laden movies in the making have been put on ice indefinitely. Television directors have similarly toned down material that the public, in its presently contemplative mood, finds inappropriate. Let us hope this temporary pause will lead to a permanent rethinking about the violent, the obscene, and the distasteful on our TV and movie screens.

7. New deal for the UN. With the embarrassing US bad debt to the UN now redeemed, and an urgent role for the UN in Afghanistan perceived, the Bush administration is tidying up the US relationship with the UN. Imperfect the UN may be. It cannot impose peace, but it can facilitate it with the help of its member-nations. It remains one of the most effective instruments in the world for bringing humanitarian aid to the victims of war, the dispossessed, and the needy.

8. An alliance reaffirmed. Over the years, Britain has stood as one of America's sturdiest allies. Shorn of empire and limited in global military power, the British were nevertheless first to fight with America in the Gulf War, and now are first again to join the fight against terrorism. President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have currently restored the alliance to Churchill-Roosevelt and Thatcher-Reagan luster.

9. An army for the 21st century. Though the US must still be armed for major warfare with set-piece battles involving huge numbers of personnel, it seems to have perfected in Afghanistan techniques for the other kinds of conflict it likely will face, involving pinpoint air power and highly skilled mobile units. The lack so far of American combat casualties augurs well for this kind of warfare in the future.

10. A return to religion. The challenges of recent weeks have spawned a more benign exploration of religious diversity in general and a turning to religious belief irrespective of that diversity. Clearly such uplifting of thought is particularly appropriate for Thanksgiving at this time.

John Hughes is a former editor of the Monitor and currently editor and chief operating officer of the Deseret News.

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