The week before Thanksgiving was certainly tumultuous.
First, President Obama announced he would use his executive powers to protect up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from being deported. Many of us who have been hoping for immigration reform were glad for some action to finally be taken, imperfect though it is. The announcement was controversial, of course, and dominated the news.
Then, the Monday before Thanksgiving, we learned there would be no indictment of Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Across the country, protests and vigils were held over the next few days to express outrage for the ways our country disregards the lives of young black men. Violence and property damage in Ferguson were an unhealthy expression of the pain, grief, and tension in the community.
For many, the absence of an indictment was a reminder of the long history of racism against African Americans, the unachieved goals of the Civil Rights Movement, and the ongoing failure of our justice system to provide real justice.
And as Thanksgiving approached, we began to hear more about the death of a 12-year-old African American boy in Cleveland, Ohio, shot and killed by police officers who apparently thought his toy gun was real. Video showing the shooting was made public on Wednesday.
By the time Thanksgiving Day arrived, we could feel the media pushing us toward the habits of consumption. I am always surprised and dismayed at how the news coverage on Thanksgiving and the following Friday is all about the retail business: stores, sales, crowds, and profits.
This year the allure of “shopping news” and all the hubbub of the holidays will be especially strong because so many of us yearn for a respite from the complexities of immigration reform, mass incarceration, and racial profiling. Yes, what a relief to turn our attention to gift giving, big meals, a sense of tradition, and—for those of us not having to work, anyway—the comforts of home.
The challenge for thoughtful people is not to give into the temptation to turn away from difficult news and complex issues. We must remain engaged with the important questions of our time. We can do this while also enjoying the holidays, expressing the joy and gratitude that the season invites.
This December, as you go about the many celebrations of the season, remember to take time to read and share the news, and do so knowing that this too is a commitment to and expression of the spirit.
Bright blessings, Sharon