English: Saying grace before carving the turke...

Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner in the home of Earle Landis in Neffsville, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No blog on Thanksgiving Day because my holidays are nothing if they are not sacred. But now that Thursday is past, and Black Friday is drawing to a close, I want to take some time to note a few things I am thankful for.

Firstly, I am thankful that I live in a secular state. The United States of America (despite the efforts of certain politically active demographics) does not have a state religion, and for that I am grateful. This means that the religious values of some–which are chosen–do not determine the value of citizenship for others–who did not necessarily choose to reside here. I was born in the United States. It is the only home I’ve ever known. My language is spoken here, my family is here, my culture is here. Were my government a body of people dedicated to upholding a particular set of religious beliefs, I could potentially face the awkward situation of having to choose between managing my life in accordance with a religion I disagree with, or moving to another country altogether (something hardly feasible for a young college student with limited foreign connections).

Living in a secular state also means that political discourse, at its best, doesn’t appeal to the disputed existence of one deity or another, nor to the subjective teachings of a prophet or creed. Participating in my country’s politics simply requires a belief in some kind of democracy (i.e. a representative governing body that is chosen of, by, and for the greater society to promote the good of the individuals who compose it, as per their wishes). Instead, the best of political discourse appeals to reason and a liberal spirit that enables the individual to define his own worldview.  I have the power to help shape my country’s culture, the composition of my governing body, and the freedom to live my own life as I see fit (insofar as my neighbour’s right to do the same remains intact).

Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving meal (Photo credit: Perosha)

I am thankful that I live in a country where legislative justice precedes the popular tides of culture, historically allowing the black, the woman, the elderly, the disabled, and the gay to receive protection, or at least the legal precedent thereof, despite the hatred of her neighbour.  Even if my neighbour treats me ill, I can point to the law books and say, “See? We live in society where you are bound to grant me my rights.”And if local law enforcement does not aid me I can keep pointing, I can keep appealing until I am heard. Progressive ideas can creep their way up through the state legislatures, providing respite for the disenfranchised until the national government spreads the blanket of progress o’er the whole nation. It means that this year, in my state, the right of consenting adults to pursue a legal commitment with the love of their life is unconstrained.

I am thankful that I live somewhere with access to abortion services, reproductive health services, and birth control. I am thankful to life somewhere where my vote counts and must be counted, where my ability to vote is not curtailed by fear or prejudice. I am thankful I live somewhere where my opinions about my government–positive or negative–are protected by my government. Despite all the craziness that takes place every election season, I am thankful I live in the United States of America. There are many other places I could be.


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