It’s been a tough year. Such ugliness in our politics, such deep divides in our country. Such apprehension about the man who will be president. It is easy to feel pessimistic.
In an email to a fellow journalist, we wondered in passing what we might say in an editorial on this Thanksgiving Day.
“Be thankful,” he wrote back. “This is America. We’ll survive. And be thankful for the lesson we have learned: take nothing for granted.”
Exactly so. We have been shocked into a greater appreciation of what we have, and of what we have to lose, and we will rise to the occasion.
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Donald Trump should worry everybody, sure. That’s been our view all year long and we see no reason to worry any less now. We’ll just have to see where this goes.
But we live in a country where tens of millions of people rejected the message of Trump, refused to think so little of our country or of each other. They fought back and we are thankful for that.
We also live in a country in which 60 million people voted for Trump, and let’s understand who they are, too. Thanksgiving is an informal day of national reconciliation, if only because right-winger Uncle Al always seems to find himself sitting next to left-winger Cousin Jim at the big family feast. They are compelled, by sheer uncomfortable physical proximity, to recognize the humanity and — dare we say it — goodness in each other. We are asked to remember what brings us together, not what pulls us apart. We are thankful for that.
Trump attracted the “deplorable” vote, you bet. But when almost half the voting population sides with a brick-thrower, something more is going on. Real grievances, by people who have felt betrayed and left behind by both Democrats and Republicans, drove this election.
As Jon Stewart, a biting critic of the newly elected president, said about Trump’s supporters in a TV interview with Charlie Rose this week: “There is now this idea that anyone who voted for him has to be defined by the worst of his rhetoric. There are guys in my neighborhood that I love, that I respect, that I think have incredible qualities, who are not afraid of Mexicans, and not afraid of Muslims, and not afraid of blacks. They’re afraid of their insurance premiums.”
The same country that elected Trump also elected Barack Obama, twice. If that confuses us and forces us to move beyond smug and easy labels in sizing up our fellow Americans, we’re thankful for that, too.
We are a divided country. We’ve got bridge-building to do. But no single election defines who we are. Our shared American ideals define who we are, especially as we get closer and closer to home.
It is one thing to deny gay rights in the abstract, as so many of us still do. It is quite another thing to reject a gay brother or daughter, as former Vice President Dick Cheney learned. It is one thing to say in a tweet that all illegal immigrants should be sent packing — all 11 million of them. It is quite another thing for a hospital emergency room to turn away an undocumented immigrant in need of care. You don’t see that. It would run afoul of an unwritten American code of personal decency. We are thankful for that.
We are in for rocky times. No getting around it. But on this Thanksgiving Day we are reminded not to give up on each other quite yet. This land is our land, and we are blessed.
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