It’s no coincidence that a uniquely American holiday — one rooted in the nation’s birth — is also the one we set aside each year to give thanks for all that we have.
Gnaw on this after the turkey has been gobbled: Everyday is “Thanksgiving” in the U.S. — even in times of economic, personal and material strife — because Americans have more reasons to be grateful than any other folk on earth.
Unemployment, ravaged health, bereavement, debt and loneliness make it difficult to adopt an attitude of gratitude, yet the struggle in the most fortunate nation of all pales in comparison to the agonies of millions of people around the world who suffer chronic hunger and disease, and lack the essential of all — safe drinking water.
Of the world’s estimated 925-million impoverished people, 239 million live in sub-Saharan Africa, 578 million in Asia and the Pacific, and just 19 million in developed countries.
Those flabbergasting figures ridicule any notion of “poverty” in America.
Today’s “poor” Americans enjoy a higher standard of living than rich people did 100 years ago, according to government reports compiled by the Heritage Foundation:
A typical family classified as “poor” by the U.S. Census Bureau, which put the average poverty threshold for a family of four at $22,314 in 2010, has at least two TVs, a VCR and a DVD player, states the watchdog group, adding that a third of “poor” households possess a widescreen, plasma or LCD TV, and needy families with kids own a video game system, such as Xbox or PlayStation, while living in homes that are in good repair and bigger than that of the average European.
Heritage also found that “poor” families were able to get medical care when needed, and admitted in surveys that they were “not hungry and had sufficient funds during the past year to meet all essential needs.”
“Their living standards are far different from the images of dire deprivation promoted by activists and the mainstream media,” maintains the organization.
If that’s not cause for gratitude, consider the abundance of federal safety nets that ensure nobody goes without in America — from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Head Start, to the Elderly Assistance Program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program, and the Women, Infants and Children Program, to name a few.
Here, even illegal aliens have much to be thankful for. Grassroots gladiators at Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue Committee, and similar civic groups across the country, work tirelessly to help undocumented arrivals achieve a better life than the one they fled.
At the top of the gratitude heap, of course, is personal freedom — a birthright that allows us all to have our say, sue our government, celebrate our religion, customs and sexuality, and even change our gender — with the law’s blessing.
If you aren’t happy right now, chances are you at least know what it is like to be happy — unlike that frozen-eyed, malnourished, bloated-bellied child eternally depicted on international relief posters or that burka-clad woman whose controlling society won’t permit her the life’s rewards she deserves.
Still not feeling thankful? Millions of foreigners will gladly trade places with you, judging by the throngs waiting in the wings: the Department of Homeland Security welcomed 1,042,625 legal residents and 619,913 new citizens last year.
For them, like the millions before them, everyday is “Thanksgiving” in America.
Shavana Abruzzo column appears every Friday on BrooklynDaily.com.