The Editors
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Giving Thanks, 2008

We can give thanks for many things this year. The election of the first African-American president is a significant step toward the elimination of racism in our country. The peaceful transition of power, even in parlous times, is an enduring symbol of the strength of the American political system. But hopeful signs were not restricted to the political sphere. Pope Benedict XVI, during his trip to the United States in April, surprised even longtime critics by his compassionate meeting with sexual abuse victims, his stirring homilies and his warm touch with the crowds. And for those in the City of Brotherly Love, the World Series finally turned out just right. (Tampa Bay readers may feel less grateful.)

Still, is it possible to give thanks in such frightening times? With each passing day economists deploy ever more alarming adjectives to describe the world economic crisis. Here in the United States, we are fighting two wars, expensive in both lives and dollars, are crippled with a colossal debt and are beginning to see employee layoffs and drastic cutbacks in consumer spending. Can we be grateful in the face of so many woes?

Yes. One reason that St. Ignatius Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises asked believers to begin their daily “examination of conscience” with gratitude was this: We often feel so swamped by the problems of the day that we forget to “taste” the gratitude. Thanksgiving is a time to savor more than just the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. It is a time consciously to “give thanks to God our Lord for the benefits received,” even in the midst of turmoil—perhaps especially in the midst of turmoil.

Zimbabwe’s Affliction

Suffering grows for Zimbabwe’s ever more impoverished population. The inflation rate stands as the highest in the world. Together with the rise in global food prices, a country that was once known as the breadbasket of Africa now experiences severe hunger. The United Nations has predicted that half the population will need food aid by January 2009. An estimated one million children have lost one or both parents, many because of AIDS.

The human rights record there remains abysmal. In the wake of last March’s general elections, and the subsequent runoff on June 27 between 84 year-old Robert Mugabe and the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, state-sponsored violence has led to the murder and torture of thousands suspected of favoring the opposition party. Mr. Tsvangirai himself was beaten and tortured in election-related violence. International pressure has led to a power-sharing deal between the two leaders of the new unity government, signed in mid-September. It has no provision that would allow for the perpetrators of the violence by security forces to be exempt from prosecution, so prosecution would be possible. Such a move, however, could jeopardize the fragility of the power-sharing between the two parties, Mr. Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and Mr. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change. Still unresolved is who has control of various ministries, especially Home Affairs, which controls the police. Both leaders were looking to the 15-member Southern Africa Development Community to resolve the political impasse, but at its meeting on Nov. 8-9, the group failed to produce a mutually agreeable solution. The humanitarian and political crisis continues to deepen.

The New Media Presidency

Did Tina Fey, with her spot-on “You betcha!” imitation of Gov. Sarah Palin, swing the presidential election? Did Will.i.am’s viral “Yes We Can” video help jump-start Barack Obama’s campaign? How many young voters did Facebook attract? Did Senator Obama’s texting news of the choice of his running mate increase interest?

It is hard to say with certainty. What is certain is this: the 2008 election was the first in which the new media, loosely defined as anything outside the traditional press, television or radio, had a significant influence on the outcome. Portents were seen in Howard Dean’s failed 2004 campaign, where staffers used Web sites like Meetup to gather together young supporters and raise amounts of cash that were surprising at that time. This year both candidates aimed to capture young voters with the help of new media, and by using newer forms of the old media, for example, through appearances on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” whose mock news programs often yielded more substantive results than their more established counterparts. (Katie Couric’s “old media” interview with a tongue-tied Palin, however, was a hit on YouTube.) But there is a dark side. Harper’s magazine highlighted several videos produced by Senator McCain’s more shadowy supporters that sowed doubts about Obama’s religion, patriotism and even birth certificate.

Barack Obama was elected in part because the majority of Americans liked his brand of leadership and liked him. Many found out about both through new ways, which—along with other media not even dreamed of—will be a permanent part of the ever-changing political landscape.

Comments

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MICHAEL HOVEY MR | 11/19/2008 - 3:58pm
I did not decide to like Mr. Obama because of the so-called liberal media; I came to like him because I watched his speeches to the American people, particularly his very moving speech in Philadelphia on race and America, and his deft explanations of his policies and hopes in the debates. His interview with Steve Kroft on last week's "60 Minutes" left me very pleased to see a president-elect who is thoughtful, intelligent and able to speak clear and concise English -- the complete opposite of the man who will soon (not soon enough) return to his ranch in Texas and, one hopes, not be heard from again.
Wes Austin | 11/19/2008 - 10:03am
I agree with Elena. However as a committed conservative I have dedicated myself to doing everything within my beliefs to assist our newly elected politicians to correct the errors of our recent past. This includes not spreading "facts" which are not facts at all.
tom farrelly | 11/18/2008 - 6:32pm
"the majority of Americans liked his brand of leadership" ? Since he has never held a leadership position, it would be more accurate to say they liked the image of leadership he presented and its reinforcement by the besotted press and television networks. They young, having no experience themselves, saw no problem in his utter lack of it. Blacks of course voted as a block. A poll revealed that 50% of Obama voters did not know which party is dominant in Congress. So much for these lovers of "change".
Bout Time | 11/18/2008 - 2:59pm
This article is HILARIOUS!!!! It just gets better and better. No talk of the racism that got him elected, by way of 98% of the black vote landing his way? Hmm. Okay. Well now that we have a black President, I guess the playing field is level enough to start talking about... ...the cancer that is African American entitlement and complacency on our culture! How about you freaks stop popping kids out you can't afford. Some 70% of your babies (crack babies and even the sober ones) are born out of wedlock. So daddy can what? Become one of the ridiculous number of young, black Americans who end up in jail? Well that's great. These all stars have 5 kids by 3 women - then get themselves locked up so the REST OF US have to pay for them. Speaking of paying for them. How funny is it that EVERYONE contributed to Obama's campaign, whether you wanted to or not, by way of the federally funded, horse-sh*t organization known as ACORN. Yeah, THAT ONE breeds REAL racial equality. This is the group that gave grass roots reality to the botched efforts of Carter, Cinton, Frank, Dodd and the ENTIRE CBC...ultimately resulting in our FINANCIAL DESTRUCTION IN THE MORTGAGE AND LENDING MARKETS!!!! Yep. Oh but it gets better.... Not only was the mildly-to-severely retarded Democrat party responsible in Washington for giving houses to people who couldn't afford them...but who do you think the rock stars were who ultimately fell flat on their faces after signing on the dotted line? Can you say Democrat? How about "black Democrat?" Or my new favorite, "Black, Obama voting Democrat." What a bunch of jokes. And now they all think everything is going to get worked out for them by their Messiah. Boy are THEY in for a rude awakening. America does need reform. And plenty of it. More of that reform than most of us would like to admit though, starts at the grass roots level. It starts in our homes. Let me help.... 1). After life, liberty and the pursuit of happines, the government owes you EXACTL NOTHING! 2). Get a job and keep it. And remember that it wouldn't be called "work" if you loved you what you got paid to do. Those who do love their jobs are lucky, not entitled. So get off the pipe, get a job and see what you can't do about KEEPING it 3). Stop buying things you can't afford. This should have been something your parents taught you, but... 4). Stop having kids you can't take care of. Unless you have a firm, committed, 2 parent plan that provides for the well-being of that child even in spite of potentially unforeseen circumstances, quit letting ego or emotional intoxication drive your behavior. 5). Education is YOUR responsibility. We've thrown money at education on YOUR behalf for the last several decades. And what's happened? NOTHING! It's gotten worse! WAKE UP CALL: hold your blossoming little criminals accountable. Make them do their homework. Discipline them. 6). STOP BLAMING EVERYONE ELSE!! The only "change you can believe in" is change YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR. Anyone who tells you otherwise, in a capitalist society, has just slapped you in the face. Now then, feel free to check out great videos available like "Peggy Joseph" "Howard Stern Obama" and/or "How Obama Got Elected" on youtube. A black man was elected President. That's that. I was the first white kid in my middle school to sit with our first black student...after watching him eat alone for 3 days. It took me a WHILE to become this "racist". But I don't think I'm racist. I think the REAL racist is the one who doesn't tell you this stuff, JUST BECAUSE you are black. Someone needs to wake you people up. Now that we've elected a black man President, I'm hoping the playing field is level enough for us to start to do so. YOU'RE KILLING OUR COUNTRY! Stop having kids you can't or won't take care of, stop waiting for the government to give you things you think they owe but you only owe yourself, get a freaking job an
jo | 11/18/2008 - 2:02pm
I am trying to understand why you believe Mr. Obama is African-American? To start his name is Arab. Secondly, in Kenya, blacks whose names were Arab were the slave traders and owners. The slaves themselves were Christians. Leaving your name Arab insured you would never be a slave. Mr. Obama's breakdown is 50% caucasian, 43.5% Arab, and 6.5% black. That is what makes him Arab-American and not African-American. The democratic party though would want you to believe he is African-American.
jo | 11/18/2008 - 2:00pm
I am trying to understand why you believe Mr. Obama is African-American? To start his name is Arab. Secondly, in Kenya, blacks whose names were Arab were the slave traders and owners. The slaves themselves were Christians. Leaving your name Arab insured you would never be a slave. Mr. Obama's breakdown is 50% caucasian, 43.5% Arab, and 6.5% black. That is what makes him Arab-American and not African-American. The democratic party though would want you to believe he is African-American.
MAUREEN TURLISH SISTER | 11/15/2008 - 10:14pm
"Pope Benedict XVI, during his trip to the United States in April, surprised even longtime critics by his compassionate meeting with sexual abuse victims, his stirring homilies and his warm touch with the crowds." I will confine my comments only to the current comment by The Editors quoted above. The pope could hardly visit the United States and not reach out in some way to the continuing mishandling of the sexual abuse problems plaguing the U.S. Church. He met with a handful of victims, yes. He made some moving statements everywhere he went, yes. But, has it had any real effect on the way bishops' are dealing with the scandal? No, not really. Pope Benedict XVI was quoted as saying that everything possible must be done so that this does not happen again in speaking about the sexual abuse of children. Presumably he was addressing to the bishops. Has anything changed in the way most bishops are acting? No, not really. We still have Mahony out in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who continues to ignore the orders of the court to produce files and records on rogue priests. We still have George out in Chicago who takes three steps backward for every step he tries to take forward. His record is a disaster. He still has a Ken Martin, from the Wilmington, Delaware Diocese, on his payroll. There is Chaput in Denver who is most vehement in his opposition to the removal of statutes of limitation that would hold all predators accountable for their actions, no matter their stripe, color or creed. There are more. The People of God do not need more words, stirring homilies or warm touches. They need actions that say that those words have meaning and were not just more PR. So far that has not been the reality. More like "sounding brass and tinkling cymbals." Sister Maureen Paul Turlish Victims' Advocate New Castle, Delaware maureenpaulturlish@yahoo.com
Elena Worrall | 11/14/2008 - 5:42pm
I must respectfully disagree with the last paragraph. A majority of Americans like the brand of leadership that was portrayed as Barack Obama's by a VERY biased popular media. Some network commentators ultimately admitted that they do not know what Obama's world view is or very much about him at all. He is still a mystery. May God bless America. I fear we need that blessing now more than ever.
heidi | 11/14/2008 - 5:34pm
What naive tripe! Your leftest ideology is so blatant...referring to McCain's "more shadowy supporters...". Millions of ignorant and not-so-ignorant people voted for the candidate who promised them the most things despite no track record of delivering on anything. Documented support of infanticide and abortion was ignored. Mob mentality won. One woman interviewed claimed that now she wouldn't have to pay her gas or mortgage. Freedom, including of religion, cannot long exist in a country with such a steep decline in morals, self-responsibility and increasingly secular in every institution including your organization.

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