SAN DIEGO — It's turkey time again, and the American family will soon be sitting down to its annual Thanksgiving feast and thinking about all the things for which it has to be thankful. In my family we start by thanking each other for the culinary contributions: sweet potato casserole, creamed onions, pumpkin pie, or whatever a relative has contributed to the gourmet potluck.
After that, the occasion gets more solemn as we start giving thanks for the blessings we've enjoyed this past year. It's easy at Thanksgiving to let our troubles disappear under a moist turkey leg covered with giblet gravy. Life seems so much sweeter between mouthfuls of brandy-laced mince pie.
Earlier this month I made two lists and placed them side-by-side. The first I call my gray list because it contains sad questions about what's happening to our human community. The second is my green go-ahead-and-be-thankful list.
For example, can I be thankful for the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic because of a gas called freon used in refrigerators and as an aerosol propellant?
No, but I can be thankful to know that DuPont chemical company, the world's largest producer of freon, favors world action to eliminate production of all gases that endanger the ozone layer.
Can I be thankful when I read a prediction of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that before the year 2000 there's a 45% chance that some nuclear reactor plant somewhere in the United States will experience a full-core meltdown similar to that in Chernobyl?
No, but I can be reassured to know that citizens in Oregon are voting to shut Oregon's only nuclear power plant until they gain a permanent dump site for nuclear wastes.
I can be thankful that California will receive $600 million from the new Superfund bill to clean up toxic waste sites in the state.
Should I be thankful for the Social Security and Medicare cuts that have left hundreds of older citizens at the poverty level, most of them women older than 65 whose only source of income is Social Security?
No, but I can be thankful to know that a new San Diego citizen's action group called Information, Communication and Action Network has been formed that will involve professional care providers, church groups, senior-citizen organizations and private individuals in a watchdog network against future depressing legislation of this kind.
Can I be thankful when I know that 8 million people won't be facing roast turkey or any other kind of bird when they sit down today, because they are either without jobs or because they are trying to survive in a job that pays so little it wouldn't keep a turkey alive?
No, but I can be thankful when I read that Congress has passed a landmark civil rights law that will ban mandatory retirement because of age and will offer new hope to older workers who are desperate to maintain their independence and dignity.
Thanksgiving is a big order. But I'm thankful there are enough people around who have the courage, who will share the responsibility for making the world a little greener for all of us.
Pass the turkey, please. My list is too long.