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It is time that we look around us and realize, with gratitude, not only what we have, but how many terrible results we have escaped.
But first, here are three new stories from the atlantic.
What could have been
On Thanksgiving, we tend to express our gratitude for what we already have. We get out of bed, glad (if we are so blessed) that we are safe and that our home is intact, and then head to the table for a good meal. Millions of us will do that on Thursday, and that’s how it should be. But I want to challenge you to find gratitude for the disasters we have escaped from in recent years. This is gratitude not for the warmth of home or a full belly, but for the visceral sense of relief, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, that comes from being shot and missing.
The old one stoics they were great practitioners of this form of gratitude, where you supercharge your understanding of life by noticing how much worse things could be and how we are all eventually destined to die. As William B. Irvine pointed out in his wonderful book A guide to the good life, the Stoics were “cheerful and optimistic about life (although they made an effort to spend time thinking about all the bad things that could happen to them)”.
So let’s hug our loved ones and be thankful for the moment, but also take a quick tour of the things that No happen, and realize how lucky we Americans are right now.
- The economy has not collapsed. When the pandemic caught fire in early 2020, there were good reasons to think that we would be headed not only for a recession, but also for a global event on the scale of the Great Depression. globalization was over, we were warned, and soon would be (in some of the more exaggerated scenarios) to be fighting in the streets over everything from food to microchips. Whether this nightmare was prevented by good policy, a resilient planetary economy, or just sheer luck, it didn’t happen, and you should be thankful, at least today, that despite inflation and the price of gasoline, we are nowhere near the economic conditions of even the 1970s, much less the 1930s.
- Speaking of the pandemic: many of us have come out of isolation with little fear of serious illness. We live in a world with such immense scientific knowledge that a terrifying new virus that kept us masked and locked away from our workplaces and schools, and from our families, was attenuated by vaccines. in one year. Yes, COVID is still with us. So are many other treatable diseases. But if you’re at a Thursday dinner with your little nephew and elderly grandmother, think for a moment about an alternate universe where you’re still FaceTiming as freezer trucks fill up with bodies that can’t be sent to overloaded morgues.
- We are not living under an authoritarian government. Just two years ago, our president was a deranged sociopath who had just lost an election. Retired generals and pillow magnates were briefing him on wacky schemes to declare martial law and seize the voting machines. After his defeat, he would call on his supporters to protest the loss of him, and the American nation, for the first time in its history, failed the test of the peaceful transfer of power. The madness did not end there; many of the autocrat’s would-be acolytes ran for office in 2022. Most They were defeated. Our freedoms, especially those of women and other vulnerable communities, remain endangeredbut at least for now, our ability to vote, to criticize our government, and to change unjust laws remains intact.
- Finally, we are not living through World War III. This may seem obvious, but that is because we have simply gotten used to the shocking fact that a great war is being fought in Europe. Think about that for a moment. A dictatorship with nuclear weapons is trying to rewrite history and threaten the peace of the entire planet. And yet firm Ukrainian courage on the ground, combined with wise 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 the moment, remains limited. The containment of the war is little comfort to the people of Ukraine, but as you serve dinner, look out the window at the world around you and notice, if only for a moment, that you are not listening. sirens announcing the end of everything you ever knew.
Look, I don’t want to be kinky (or, God forbid, overly dramatic). But this year, as well as being thankful for what we have, let’s also think for a moment about the many ways our nation, and the world, could have been derailed by immense dangers that have thus far been held at bay. This does not mean that we live in the best of all worlds. We must still endure sadness and tragedies, both as individuals and as a society. still prominent americans try to revive our nascent hatreds; mass shooters they still kill our fellow citizens and erase our sense of security. ignorance and partisan tribalism continue to provide more victims for the pandemic.
Yet the United States survives and even prospers. We shouldn’t spend all our days thinking about the disaster, but it makes us better people (and better citizens) if we stop for a moment and realize that we should celebrate not only what we’ve earned, but also what we have, so let’s away—has been saved.
Who is afraid of Masih Alinejad?
by Graeme Wood
When Masih Alinejad, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s public enemy number 1, met me at a hotel in Lower Manhattan, he sat with his back to a ground-floor window. Her frizzy hair was framed in the glass and visible to tourists and office workers walking by, and, it occurred to me, but apparently not to her, to any assassin who wanted to kill her. The threat is not theoretical. In July, police arrested Khalid Mehdiyev, of Yonkers, New York, after he was found loitering around Alinejad’s Brooklyn home with an AK-47 and nearly 100 rounds of ammunition. A year earlier, the Justice Department announced that it had thwarted a plot to kidnap Alinejad, take her by sea to Venezuela, and then take her to Iran for imprisonment and possibly execution. 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’m just missing this,” she said, pointing to her head, the absent neuroanatomical structure that makes normal people afraid of being shot dead. “I don’t have this fear.”
More of the atlantic
Read. Spiegelmann’s art maus. What makes the book controversial is exactly what makes it valuable.
Clock. The menuIn theaters, it offers more food for thought than your typical glossy fall thriller.
I realize that my somewhat curmudgeonly vision of happiness is not for everyone. This is what comes out of the reading. meditations, by Marco Aurelio, in high school. I cannot claim to be a good Stoic; I’m too emotional a person for that. But as a shallow and plastic teenager in the 1970s, I found Stoic thinking appealing, and still do. However, if you want a much warmer and more engaging take on how to find greater fulfillment in your daily existence, read my colleague Arthur Brooks, who writes the Atlantic column “how to build a life.” I’ve never met Arthur, but I can tell he’s a nicer person than I am, and I read him closely on everything from marriage to technology. You also should.
The Daily will return tomorrow with an interview with Bushra Seddique, a young Afghan journalist who fled the Taliban last year and is now an editorial member of the atlantic. After that, we’ll take a break until Monday, when I’ll be back here with you. I wish you a lovely and gratitude-filled Thanksgiving.
Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.