A few weeks before Thanksgiving, a story in The Christian Science Monitor offered a look at Afghanistan. "Dim Urban Centers Contrast With Neon-Lighted Iran Cities," the headline read. Subheads added: "Women's Faces Veiled" and "Western Garb Scarce."
Several days later, in a front-page story from Washington, the president warned Americans that the nation was standing on the brink of "one of the greatest crises we have ever faced." Another article focused on 900,000 "utterly hopeless" refugees.
Afghanistan. A grave crisis. Refugees. It all sounds so timely. But these articles appeared in the Monitor 50 years ago, in November 1951. Afghanistan was a pre-Taliban country. Harry Truman occupied the White House, and the potential crisis he feared involved the risk of a Soviet attack in Europe. The refugees were Arabs.
To read these Monitors from 50 Thanksgiving seasons ago is to be reminded that even the supposedly idyllic 1950s were shadowed with challenges.
On Thanksgiving eve in this turbulent autumn of 2001, a look back offers a reassuring perspective. It places current events in a long-term context. Crises and challenges come and go, but hope and courage endure and prevail.
In 1951, the Korean War was in its second year. In his Thanksgiving Proclamation, Truman stated: "With the cooperation of our Allies, we are striving to attain a permanent peace, and to assure success in achieving that coveted goal, we reverently place our faith in the Almighty."
Even in that relatively innocent era, morality posed challenges. In a letter to the editor, a Monitor reader lamented a "definite down-trend, ethically and spiritually. The alarming confusion of the people morally points to a new low. Young people cheat and take dope." That same month, government officials and college presidents sought to "repair the low ethical standards which have been manifesting themselves in American activities."