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Editorial: Difficult gratitude

As Thanksgiving approaches this year, we recognize the difficulty of determining for what we should be grateful. As news from the tragedies in Paris and Beirut continues to trickle out, as governors of 26 states and counting have refused to accept Syrian and Iraqi refugees — privileging fear over shared humanity — and as events at the University of Missouri, Yale, Brown and countless campuses across the country painfully demonstrate the power of structural racism, calls for gratitude seem untimely at best and insensitive and tasteless at worst. The world, as it stands, makes it hard to give thanks.

Gratitude has often stifled social change and advancement, stalled the persistent push for progress and served as an expression of contentedness with “the way things are.” Appeals for gratitude can frequently be framed as the conservative counterweight to discussions of privilege. They can be seen as a means of silencing a marginalized group and a call for complacency through their implicit suggestion that the status quo is satisfactory.

Commentators who have opposed recent student protests on college campuses have used notions of gratitude to question the demands of activists, arguing that their general good fortune renders their pleas misguided and meaningless. But neither well-furnished facilities nor the privilege of education offsets racism and threats of violence on campus.

Not only does gratitude appear to be incongruous with the turmoil of today, but it also seems to serve as a force of stasis and inaction when urgency and exertion are most in need. A system must stop being appreciated in order to create meaningful change and improvement. Progress is the mobilization of collective dissatisfaction. As our social and political institutions continue to grapple with the same habitual problems with few gains to be made, we must ask to whom we should be grateful, and for what and why?

Yet despite the pressing issues that never seem to vanish, we believe in the importance of recognizing and appreciating all that makes us strive to overcome them. Though it is easy to forget our luck in moments of pain and injustice, it remains important to retain the capacity for thankfulness while suffering.

Be thankful for a kind word or gesture, for moments of understanding. Be thankful for feelings of solidarity and the possibility of progress. And be thankful for all that leads us to imagine a better future. In a world still full of hate, bigotry, violence, ignorance and, above all, inertia, we believe in the everlasting value of taking the time to reflect and express gratitude for the ideas, values and feelings that remain separate from the darkness.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: Emma Axelrod ’18, Eben Blake ’17 and Aranshi Kumar ’17. Send comments to



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