This year, many American families will find gratitude harder to summon heading into the holidays. Unemployment, widespread hunger and unchecked sickness and death are weighing heavily.
Many of us are grateful to have avoided the disease this year. But many others have struggled through sickness — through damage to their bodies — and also lost loved ones to Covid-19. It can be hard to feel too grateful for your own health when you know that more than a quarter million of your fellow citizens (maybe people that you knew or loved) have died of coronavirus, and that many of those deaths could have been prevented if our government had taken the threat more seriously and acted as necessary.
And family togetherness? My family is gathering via Zoom this year — nice, but hardly the same as being able to give my loved ones a big hug. Traveling and gathering when Covid is again spiraling out of control is too risky.
Is this the kind of American “greatness” Trump promised? An America that is hungry, sick and isolated?
It is well past time that Americans were given the support they need to get through this pandemic. And American hunger didn’t start with Covid-19. Well before the pandemic, tens of millions of families were living on a razor’s edge, knowing that a job loss or an illness could push them over the brink.
That’s not just the sign of a cruelly individualistic society; it’s wholly unnecessary in an incredibly prosperous one. The pandemic didn’t create American suffering, but it has pushed millions of families over the edge all at once. And our government is largely missing in action.
But while these small individual choices are important, they can’t solve this calamity alone. For that, we need real political leadership and policies that will ensure every person in America has enough to eat, a roof over their head, and the ability to get the medical care they need without facing financial ruin.
We need to make sure that small businesses can survive the coming tough winter — and that businesses like bars and restaurants can temporarily shutter to help curb the spread of the virus while still making the rent and paying their employees. In this crisis, we need leaders who work hard to make sure the pandemic is controlled to the best of anyone’s ability, and that its consequences — health care costs, job losses — are blunted by generous aid.
These are not big asks in a wealthy nation. Gratitude is valuable, but we shouldn’t have to feel lucky that we are fed, housed, and alive. It would be so much better to feel grateful to live in a country that took care of every soul within its borders — and that strove to do right by people outside of it, too.