While traditional Thanksgiving has been a hollow event in the United States, Nick Loughnan reckons we have much to be thankful for here in New Zealand.

As an extraordinary year draws to a close, we in New Zealand have so many reasons to feel grateful.

We are one of the few countries on the planet to have asserted a credible level of control over Covid-19, our economy has weathered a substantial check without too much collateral damage, and our political system of democracy has reflected the wishes of our nation’s majority at our recent election.

We have a lot to give thanks for.

Meanwhile, 2020’s Thanksgiving in the United States has been a hollow event. Falling on the fourth Thursday of November, it has long been a national holiday where families have traditionally gathered to celebrate kinship and all that is wholesome about the American way of life. But this year sees that nation finding so little to celebrate, amongst widespread economic hardship, sickness and death.

I remember America’s Thanksgiving for rather different reasons. 15 years ago, we were growing export peonies in a couple of our paddocks, and the most lucrative blooms to grow were a large white variety, especially when they could reach the US by air freight in time for Thanksgiving Day.

At that same time 15 years ago, America was waking up to the decade-long mess it had made in Iraq by overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s regime. This conflict was simply following an historic pattern that America had benefited from since World War 1.

The supplying of armaments and weaponry has always been highly profitable for the US, and the international contracts awarded to American companies in rebuilding infrastructure destroyed through warfare have been equally so. For most of the 20th century, world conflicts have underpinned so much of America’s economic power base. In its 242 year history as a nation, it has only enjoyed 16 years of peace, making it the most combative nation in the history of the planet.

But just as the British ruled the 19th century, France the 18th, the Dutch in the 17th, and Spain in the 16th, we are watching America slide from its 20th century superpower status, and with startling speed.

There is a socially corrosive inequality within it where its three wealthiest men own more than 160 million of their poorest countrymen. Their children are compulsive screen watchers, becoming ever less active and contributing to an alarming childhood obesity epidemic. Americans consume two thirds of the world’s antidepressant drug supply, and opioid prescription drugs are the leading cause of death for their under 50s.

However, it is Covid which has finally tipped America over. It’s current administration simply failed to react to the threat, and the price for this lax strategy is now doubly high. Economic survival for businesses and households is perilously difficult, while the odds of biological survival for older Americans in the face of this raging pandemic aren’t encouraging.

America’s national debt is more than US$26 trillion – that’s 26 thousand billion dollars, and yet they can’t afford to provide basic health care for anyone who doesn’t have expensive medical insurance.

Their population, now so poorly led, sadly divided and frighteningly well armed, has the appearance of being capable of descending into widespread civil strife.

And how does that impact on Nick in Central Otago? He’s been trying to buy his usual 5000 round ‘brick’ of .22 ammunition for his ongoing war on rabbits. And for three months it has been virtually unobtainable, because the American manufacturers cannot keep pace with the demand from within their own country, let alone trying to export to the rest of the world.

So let us surely give thanks for our place on the planet. As December leads us towards Christmas, the flowering coastal pohutukawas, family gatherings, a relatively robust economy, stable democracy and lawful political leadership, we know we are very fortunate. And the whole world it seems now wants to come and live here for a myriad of very ordinary reasons.

Enjoy it all. Count yourselves lucky!