Thanksgiving can be good antidote to COVID consternation

Boy, it’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving Day is closing in on us.
But despite the calendar shock, thanksgiving really sounds good right about now, in more ways than just flavor.
Ever heard that saying, “Quit complaining and count your blessings”?
Yeah, there are more refined ways of saying it, but after the couple of years we’ve had, I think it’s time to really focus on being thankful.
Admittedly, COVID has many of us in crustier moods than we were feeling 20 months ago. We’re sick of being angry, sick of divisiveness and unwonted emotion over things that seem should be less controversial, sick of all the mistrust, etc., etc.
So, what do I have to be thankful for?
Hmmm, well, last time I checked, pretty much all my basics were taken care of: plenty of food, clean drinking and bath water, plenty of clothes for just about every season, heat, a roof over my head.
Shoot, even my dogs have plenty to eat.
I’ve been thinking about this lately because I know people in third-world countries who don’t have these things. They’re intelligent people, but some of them live in societies, under governments that do not facilitate individual success. They stand in line for hours for the chance – not the certainty – of getting food. Sanitation is touch and go. People I know of, who live in one south Asian country that’s in the middle of civil war, literally have to gauge their chances of survival if they leave their house – or stay in it.
I know people who have been forced to spend months inside their houses or compounds, with only one adult allowed outside to go after groceries once or twice a week, due to – yep, COVID.
Not to sound preachy, but we Americans have a lot to be thankful for.
I’m thankful that, although a lot of feathers have been ruffled by this COVID business, people still are getting along, and they’re starting to get together. I’m thankful, personally, as well as a newspaper editor, that people are starting to engage with each other again, because to me isolation has been one of the biggest negatives of the pandemic.
One positive that I think has come from the pandemic is that people are thinking about basics: the basics that make us Americans, make our country what it has been for almost 250 years. What does it really mean to be free? How do safety and security balance out with personal liberty? How much power should authorities have to dictate choices relating to personal health? How much authority should government have, period?
Yeah, a lot of those are unsettling questions and I think many of us have experienced consternation over what’s happened in the last 20 months. But some of that may turn out to be healthy. Instead of being like lemmings running over a cliff together, we’re thinking, “Hey, just why do we do it this way? And are we doing it the right way?” Those are healthy considerations in a democratic republic, where we vote in free elections to elect candidates who, hopefully, consistently represent our views in the halls of government.
I won’t go into all the things I’m thankful for – family (one great grandkid and another on the way), faith, church, skilled and dedicated staff members (“you’re only as good as your staff” is not just a platitude), faith, health, etc., etc.
But when I focus on some of these things, I get a lot less stressed by things I don’t like about what’s been going on – and I’m thankful for that.
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Changing gears and direction, rather abruptly, here: During the past couple of weeks newspapers across Oregon have been running front pages that are blank, save for this question: “What if there were no local reporters?”
This isn’t just a cheap stunt to get attention. It’s a real concern for all of us who recognize the value of local journalism and the need for the scrutiny and accountability that newspapers provide in our system of government.
Many of our readers have watched what’s happened to papers in the Mid-Valley, which have been victimized by the impacts of social media siphoning off what used to be newspaper advertising dollars and the impact of “vulture capitalists” who have squeezed newsrooms for every dollar possible and left formerly robust newspapers resembling, in some senses, the polyp victims of the wicked Ursula in “The Little Mermaid.” It’s not a figment of our imaginations.
The fact is, one in four newspapers published in the U.S. 15 years ago have shut down. That’s a scary thought when I think of what that means to their communities.
That’s the point newspapers around the state are trying to make: What if the stories stop because the newspaper no longer exists?
It’s a question every citizen of our nation should contemplate. In many places, some 1,800 communities across America, you have “news deserts,” no longer covered by daily or nondaily newspapers.
The situation has gotten the attention of our representatives in Congress, who are considering a bill called the “Local Journalism Sustainability Act,” which was introduced in Congress this past summer and has drawn bipartisan support.
In a nutshell, the legislation would provide tax incentives for advertising in legitimate local media, as defined in the law, to help them survive these tumultuous times.
It’s intended to do so without making media beholden to the government, in the way nonprofits and churches that enjoy tax-benefit support from the government, are not (or don’t need to be).
Many politicians, despite the irritation they sometimes feel with the media, know that if reporters don’t ask those questions, nobody will.
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) gets it: “Journalistic standards, local newspapers and broadcasters play a critical role in holding our elected officials accountable, shining a spotlight on important news and challenging the issues of our community to come to light.”
While your local news is produced by people who definitely aren’t perfect, it’s strategically as fair and accurate as we are capable of making it. Local journalists give you a chance to be aware of what’s going on where you live, in your community and state. If they vanish, you’d likely know very little about what your local or state government is doing with your tax dollars – and your rights, or what’s really happening in local schools, sports, arts, etc.
So if any of this concerns you, consider emailing the congressional representatives listed below, and tell them what you think about the importance of local news media to you, a citizen of Oregon.

U.S. Senate
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden – [email protected]

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley – [email protected]

U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (District 1) – [email protected]

U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz (District 2) – [email protected]

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenaur (District 3) [email protected]

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (District 4) – [email protected]

U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (District 5) – [email protected]