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Commentary: Thanksgiving Day

I can think of lots of reasons to be happy today, one of which is that the election is behind us, and the politicians won’t be actively campaigning for office again for at least a month.

We’ll be able to watch the Detroit Lions today without enduring countless ads about Debbie-spend-it-all or bridges over the Detroit River. No, we can instead use the commercial breaks the way the Founding Fathers intended, to decide which brand of cheap bottled light beer is better. Or, for going to the bathroom.

Yet before we turn to today’s main business of flamboyant overeating, there was one slogan from the late unlamented campaign that it might make sense to think about. In an attempt to get voters to reelect the President, Joe Biden often repeated the slogan, “General Motors is alive, and Osama bin Laden is dead.“

Well, that much is indeed true. General Motors is alive, as is Ford and Chrysler. They aren’t what they once were. They may never again be the mass employer that they were for so long. But they are in business and making money, and four years ago it looked like that might not be the case. 

There are other reasons to give thanks, too. Our military adventure in Iraq is essentially over, and fewer Michigan soldiers are dying in Afghanistan as that war winds down.

The economy is improving, if slowly. There does seem to be an increasing recognition that we can no longer push many of our problems under the rug. We are fighting about how to face them, but facing them we are.

This is also one of the most beautiful states in the union, from the pictured rocks in the Upper Peninsula to the Irish Hills. Ohio got a lot more attention from the national press this fall. But in the final analysis, we’ve got Charlevoix and Petoskey, Lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior, and they’ve got Cedar Point.

Don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to trade.

We are going to have to make some difficult, painful, but necessary decisions in the weeks and months ahead. Detroit’s consent agreement isn’t working, and the state is almost certainly going to have to get involved in helping steer Michigan’s largest city through its immense financial crisis.

A lot of sanity on everyone’s part is going to be needed. It would help if we all remembered that the fate of Detroit impacts this entire state, and that all of the ten million people who live here really are bound up with each other, economically and otherwise.

The governor wants us to make some dramatic decisions that will change the nature of public education in Michigan.

Let’s hope that our lawmakers, whatever they decide, will base their decisions on the best way to give kids the opportunities they need so that they, and our state, can have a prosperous future.

Again, whatever your politics, there is something to be said for our governor’s slogan of “relentless positive action.”

And as we get ready to face the cranberry sauce, we might also do well to remember something they say in Detroit churches. “We aren’t what we should be. We aren’t what we are going to be.  But at least we’re not what we was.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.