Give thanks for what we avoided

Give thanks for what we avoided

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It is time for us to look around and realize, with gratitude, not just what we have, but how many terrible exits we have escaped.

But first, here are three new stories from Atlantic.

What could have been

At Thanksgiving, we tend to express gratitude for what we already have. We roll out of bed happy (if we’re so blessed) that we’re okay and our home is intact, then head to the dinner table for a great meal. Millions of us will on Thursday, and that’s normal. But I want to challenge you to find gratitude for the disasters we have escaped in recent years. It is the gratitude not for the warm hearth or the full stomach, but the visceral sense of relief, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, that comes from being shot and missed.

The ancient Stoics were great practitioners of this form of gratitude, in which you enhance your understanding of life by noting how much worse things could be and how we are all destined to die. As William B. Irvine noted in his wonderful book Guide to the good life, the Stoics were “joyful and optimistic about life (although they made a point of spending time thinking about all the bad things that might happen to them).”

And so let’s hold our loved ones and be grateful for the moment, but also take a quick tour of the things that doesn’t happen – and realize how lucky we Americans are right now.

  • The economy did not collapse. When the pandemic ignited in early 2020, there was good reason to believe that we would be heading not just for a downturn, but also for a global event on the scale of the Great Depression. Globalization was over, we were warned, and soon we would (in some of the wackiest scenarios) be fighting in the streets for everything from food to microchips. Whether this nightmare was prevented by good policy, a resilient planetary economy, or just dumb luck, it didn’t happen – and you should be grateful, at least today, that despite inflation and the high price gasoline, we are far from the economic conditions of even the 1970s, much less the 1930s.
  • Speaking of the pandemic: Many of us have come out of isolation without fear of serious illness. We live in a world where scientific know-how is so immense that a terrifying new virus that has kept us masked and locked away from our workplaces and schools – and our families – has been blunted by vaccines. in a year. Yes, COVID is still with us. The same is true for many other treatable diseases. But if you’re at dinner on Thursday with your infant nephew and elderly grandmother, think for a moment of an alternate universe where you’re still FaceTiming while freezer trucks fill up with bodies that can’t be sent to morgues. overloaded.
  • We do not live under an authoritarian government. Only two years ago, our president was an unhinged sociopath who had just lost an election. He was briefed by retired generals and pillow moguls on crackpot plans to declare martial law and seize voting machines. After his defeat, he would call on his supporters to protest his loss – and the American nation, for the first time in its history, failed the test of the peaceful transfer of power. The madness didn’t stop there; many acolytes of the would-be autocrat ran for office in 2022. Most were defeated. Our freedoms, especially those of women and other vulnerable communities, remain at risk, but at least for now, our ability to vote, criticize our government, and change unjust laws remains intact.
  • Finally, we are not living in World War III. It may seem obvious, but that’s just because we’ve gotten used to the shocking fact that a major war is raging in Europe. Think about it for a moment. A nuclear-armed dictatorship tries to rewrite history and threatens the peace of the entire planet. And yet, Ukraine’s unwavering courage on the ground, combined with shrewd policy in Washington and other NATO capitals, has put Russia on the defensive. The Moscow army is in a humiliating retreat, and the conflict, for today, remains limited. The containment of the war is a small consolation for the Ukrainian people, but as you serve dinner, look out the window at the world around you and notice, if only for a moment, that you don’t listen to the sirens announcing the end of everything you ever knew.

Listen, I don’t want to be morbid (or, God forbid, overly dramatic). But this year, in addition to being grateful for what we have, let’s also reflect for a moment on the many ways our nation – and the world – could have been derailed by immense dangers that have so far been kept at bay. . This does not mean that we live in the brave new world. We still have to endure sadness and tragedy, both as individuals and as a society. Prominent Americans are still trying to stoke our budding hatreds; mass shooters are still killing our fellow citizens and shattering our sense of security. Ignorance and partisan tribalism continue to claim more victims of the pandemic.

Yet America survives, and even thrives. We shouldn’t spend all our days thinking about disaster, but it makes us better people (and better citizens) if we stop for a moment and realize that we need to celebrate not only what we’ve won, but also what we have. far—been spared.


Today’s News

  1. Russia has launched a series of attacks on the eastern front in the Donetsk region of Ukraine.
  2. Argentina lost their World Cup match against Saudi Arabia, 2-1.
  3. The Supreme Court has denied Donald Trump’s request to block disclosure of his tax records to the House Ways and Means Committee.


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Evening reading

Masih Alinejad
Cole Wilson/The New York Times/Redux

Who is afraid of Masih Alinejad?

By Graeme Wood

When Masih Alinejad, Public Enemy No. 1 of the Islamic Republic of Iran, met me in a Lower Manhattan hotel, she was sitting with her back to a downstairs window. Her frizzy hair was framed in glass and visible to passing tourists and office workers — and, it occurred to me, but apparently not to her, to any assassin who might want to take her out. The threat is not theoretical. In July, police arrested Khalid Mehdiyev, of Yonkers, New York, after he was found prowling around Alinejad’s Brooklyn home with an AK-47 and nearly 100 rounds. A year earlier, the Justice Department announced that it had foiled a plot to kidnap Alinejad, take her by sea to Venezuela, and then take her to Iran to be imprisoned and possibly executed. She now lives in hiding, but she told me that she doesn’t think about threats to her safety. ” I do not know why. I just miss it,” she said, pointing to her head, the missing neuroanatomical structure that makes normal people fear being shot. “I don’t have that fear.”

Read the article completely.

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cultural break

Ralph Fiennes as Chef Slowik, presiding over a kitchen table in
Ralph Fiennes in The menu

Lily. Art Spiegelman’s Maus. What makes the book controversial is exactly what makes it valuable.

Look. The menuin theaters, offers more food for thought than your average glossy fall thriller.

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I realize that my somewhat curious view of happiness is not for everyone. This is apparent from reading meditations, by Marcus Aurelius, in high school. I can’t claim to be a good Stoic; I’m way too emotional for that. But as a teenager in the shallow, plastic 1970s, I found Stoic thinking appealing, and I still do. If you want a much warmer and more engaging view of finding greater satisfaction in your daily life, read my colleague Arthur Brooks, who writes the Atlantic column “How to build a life”. I’ve never met Arthur, but I can say he’s a nicer person than me, and I read him carefully on everything from marriage to technology. You should too.

The Daily will be back tomorrow with an interview with Bushra Seddique, a young Afghan journalist who fled the Taliban last year and is now an editor at Atlantic. After that, we’ll take a break until Monday, when I’ll be back here with you. I wish you a beautiful and full of gratitude Thanksgiving.

-To M

Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.

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