Believe it or not, even the Tribune editorial board can find things to be grateful for at Thanksgiving.
After devoting a hefty percentage of our editorials in the past year to what we see in Utah and the wider world that is out of whack and in need of fixing, we quite naturally leave the impression that our sole aim is to scold the powerful, champion the weak, and to poke our noses into places where the people's business is conducted in the half-light of a closed room.
It is true that when we sense that our leaders are too motivated by ideology, political advantage, personal benefit, or the constant need for campaign cash, we are quick to stand in the marketplace with a bullhorn and cry foul.
Happily, though, Thanksgiving affords the opportunity to express gratitude for blessings large and small. What follows is merely a small sampling, limited by space, of things that have helped instill hope in us and pride in our communities, our state, and our nation:
• Come Christmas, American troops in Iraq will finally be home after an occupation that began in 2003 and is ending with the country in a much better semblance of order.
• In Afghanistan, the timetable for troop withdrawals is farther out, but the chief goal at the outset of America's longest war, to capture and punish Osama bin Laden, has been met. We hope that will add impetus to a more rapid disengagement from what is essentially a tribal conflict that is not America's to settle, even if that were possible.
• Slowly, in fits and starts, the Great Recession that touched off two years of national and global financial hardship is receding. Though turmoil over economic upheavals in debt-ridden European Union states threatens to prolong instability and the erosion of jobs and home values that have had a profoundly negative impact on all but the wealthiest Americans, the economy is growing.
• In most respects, Utah has managed to better cope with the recession than the many states that remain awash in red ink. While an attendant decline in state revenues forced substantial cuts in government services, and the Legislature blindly refused to increase revenues to shore up our ailing public education system, the recession arrived later and is departing earlier than in the nation as a whole. Unemployment here never rose as high as the national average and the job market is showing signs of revival.
• When the Legislature voted to gut the state's open-records law, the citizens of Utah, alerted to the threat by a coalition of Utah newspapers and broadcasters, stepped forward and said nothing doing. Lawmakers who had railroaded the legislation at light speed just as speedily repealed the law. Public outrage made the difference, offering hope that voters will step forward early next year and slap down another attempt to undermine the public schools with a private school voucher system.
• Just as gratifying is the evidence that moderate Republicans who sat on the sidelines as the party's supermajority on Capitol Hill fell under the sway of right-wing ideologues are finally speaking openly about changing the caucus-convention system of picking candidates for public office. That system, the only one of its kind in the country, keeps political power in the hands of a tiny minority of party zealots who serve as delegates to the party conventions where nominees are picked. In our view, that anti-democratic choke point is the chief obstacle to good governance in Utah, and the reason why the Legislature is becoming a rightist enclave increasingly out of step with moderate and independent Utahns.
• In the same vein, as the debate about illegal immigration turned nasty, a group of community leaders devised the Utah Compact, a statement of principles that has helped to return balance, civility and compassion to the discussion. Several faiths and the Salt Lake Chamber took the lead in formulating it, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lent its support. The compact influenced a package of bills at the Legislature that included a guest worker program in addition to tougher enforcement of immigration laws by local police.
• Elsewhere, there is reason to be thankful for the efforts of farsighted government, business and religious leaders who have, in a perilous economic climate, seen through to completion such community enhancing projects as the City Creek Center (opening early in 2012), and a pair of first-rate museums, the Leonardo on Library Square, and the spectacular Natural History Museum of Utah overlooking the Salt Lake Valley from its foothill perch.
In the coming year, along with the criticism we dole out when it's earned, we'll do our best to identify those people, places, deeds and ideas that will make us just as grateful to join with you in celebrating Thanksgiving 2012.