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Giving Thanks, Offering Hope

Somehow, Thanksgiving felt slightly transgressive this year amid pervasive gloom – and not just for those who defied repeated injunctions from “authorities” and gathered with family and friends anyway. Given everything that’s happened in 2020, many Americans seemed to feel a little like the child I overheard in a zoom classroom one Friday. Asked by his teacher to name something for which he was grateful, the boy answered without hesitation, “That this is almost over.”

Perhaps it’s worth remembering that Thanksgiving was born amid dark times. Only 45 of the original 102 on the Mayflower even survived to celebrate at the first feast; Abraham Lincoln formally proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, amid the bloodiest conflict this country has ever known. Americans have defied despair by giving thanks before.

Even so, as we move into the Yuletide season, it’s a grim reality: circumstances have changed for many since last year, and not for the better. Connecticut’s economy has shrunk by almost one-third thanks to the policies chosen to combat coronavirus. That statistic represents the death of the dreams of owners of thousands of small businesses – including restaurants, bookstores, and boutiques – that simply couldn’t stay afloat amid lockdowns and other restrictions.

It’s heartbreaking. No one has a finger on the pulse of the American dream like a small business owner. They are the “canaries in the coal mine” for the rest of us when it comes to overregulation, bureaucracy, and other forms of petty oppression. No one works harder or is more keenly aware of the link between free enterprise and prosperity. Small business has long been understood as the avatar of much that has made our national character great – and rightly so.

Likewise, too many nonprofits have been left to wither on the vine. To take just one example, as Yankee Institute’s Marc Fitch recently reported, the Inner-City Foundation for Charity and Education announced it was closing after nearly 30 years – the pandemic having strangled its ability to host major fundraising events (Yankee likewise canceled its gala this year).

After the Foundation’s endowment has been spent down, there will be one fewer organization available to fund charities helping those in poverty or educating adults and children. A survey of more than 250 Connecticut nonprofits found that fully 82 percent had experienced financial losses because of the pandemic – with a whopping 46 percent of smaller organizations reporting they were struggling.

This, too, is alarming. Our country has a long, proud history of a flourishing nonprofit sector, generously supported by a citizenry committed to a wide variety of good works. These organizations are vital to our country’s health. Like churches, clubs, professional organizations, and other institutions, charities serve as “mediating institutions” between people and their government – each a little bulwark of freedom against a state that otherwise can grow too large and too powerful, with too much control over the lives of the people it governs.

So whether we spent last weekend giving thanks to God for the blessings in our lives – or simply being thankful that 2020 is nearly over – as we enter this season of hope, perhaps we can make three easy resolutions to make the holidays more hopeful for some badly in need of some hope. Let’s:

  • Support Connecticut’s independent, small businesses (rather than large chains that were never locked down) for holiday shopping;
  • Strenuously oppose any efforts by state government to pick winners and losers a second time by locking down some retailers while allowing others to remain open, selling the same items; and
  • Partner as generously as possible with a Connecticut charity of your choice.

At Yankee Institute, every single day (and especially on this “Giving Tuesday”!), we’re thankful for the commitment to liberty, fairness, and opportunity for all that unite so many of us across the Constitution State. Together, let’s continue being transgressive – cheerfully defying the predictions of the naysayers, as we each do our part, together, to bring about the change our state so desperately needs.

Carol Platt Liebau

Carol has worked as an attorney, author, political and policy advisor, and media commentator. In addition to practicing law, she has served as legislative assistant to Senator Christopher S. “Kit” Bond of Missouri; as a consultant to the U.S. Senate campaigns of John D. Ashcroft of Missouri (1994) and Congressman Tom Campbell of California (2000 and 2010); and as law clerk to Reagan appointee Judge David B. Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

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