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Recounting our remarkable blessings

Each Thanksgiving, I like to look around the nation and world we live in and take stock of what we have to be thankful for.

I generally pull out what I wrote the previous year to see how we have done in the 12 intervening months. Last year was a particularly difficult one because Thanksgiving came hard on the heels of Sept. 11, a time of sorrow and grieving for many Americans, and others who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

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Even so, seven of my 10 items listed last year stood up well and this year I've been able to add to them.

The seven were:

The American spirit undimmed after Sept. 11.

Freedom at work (particularly in Afghanistan).

Resilient US economy (despite an unconvinced stock market).

Nuclear weapons reduced (the trend continues for the major powers despite concerns about Iraq and North Korea).

New prominence for the United Nations (especially true after the Security Council vote on Iraq).

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Anglo-American alliance reaffirmed (British Prime Minister Tony Blair has stood with President Bush through thick and thin).

New casualty-reducing military techniques and hardware (implemented in the Afghanistan campaign and further refined since).

The three I am not so sure about are: a world more tender; a return to religion; and the muting of movie and TV violence by Hollywood.

I like to believe that we are all kinder to one another since Sept. 11, but I'm disturbed by the lack of civility in public discourse, particularly in the halls of Congress after the midterm elections, where the bipartisan spirit seems to be eroding. I like to believe we have become more trusting in a divine power, but I don't have a way of measuring that. And as for Hollywood's post-Sept. 11 pause from producing violent and tasteless material, I'm afraid that is all it was: a pause.

However, there are a number of new things on the world scene to be grateful for this 2002 Thanksgiving season:

Political stability in the US. The outcome of the 2000 presidential election may have been messy, but the 2002 midterm elections confirmed the voters' confidence in the Bush presidency, and its stability at least through 2004. I can think of a dozen countries I've covered in my career where the tanks might have rolled and the "coupists" have marched after the closeness of the 2000 election. Thanks be for this remarkable democracy, where strong views for and against Mr. Bush's policies may swirl, but where citizens make decisions through the ballot box, not with bayonets in the streets.

Personal probity in the White House Oval Office. Whatever political assessments Republicans and Democrats may have of Bush, he has returned decorum and dignity to the oval office. This is a welcome contrast to the scandals generated by the previous incumbent. We need a president and first lady in the White House whose standards of personal conduct are agreeable, and an example, to most Americans.

US economic strength. Despite a recession, a searing terrorist attack, and a limping ascent from that recession, the US economy remains strong and is sending that signal to markets around the world. The US stock market has made gains for seven consecutive weeks and the prospect of tax reform is heartening the confidence of investors in the economy's prospects for 2003. Even the threat of war with Iraq has been discounted by experts who argue that a swift campaign would not be a setback to economic recovery and conceivably could contribute to it positively.

New role for NATO. At the Prague summit last week, NATO welcomed seven new member nations and expanded its alliance to the borders of Russia without what might have been, in the bad old days of the cold war, sharp Russian reaction. Indeed today's Russia aspires to be part of NATO. The old, and once essential, role of NATO in thwarting an invasion of Western Europe by the Soviet Union and its communist allies in Eastern Europe, has faded. Militarily, NATO has been overtaken by the stunning new military hardware and prowess of the US. Thus NATO seeks a fresh and more political role as an alliance of member-states facing new threats, not the least of which is international terrorism.

Thus, though at Thanksgiving 2002 we face threats from Osama bin Laden and his ilk, the world, and Americans in particular, have much to be grateful for.

John Hughes, editor and chief operating officer of the Deseret News, is a former editor of the Monitor.


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