Member Voices: A Thanksgiving WishPosted November 20th, 2012 by Kelly Singleton Dalton
Finally, the election is over. After such a contentious and lengthy battle over the direction our country will take for the next four years, we can all calm down, shake hands, and get on with life (is anyone else LOVING Nashville?). Let’s all heave a sigh of relief, right?
Oh. Wait, what? We’re not heaving a sigh of relief? Well, what are we doing? Oh. We are laughing at each other and gloating about winning. We’re deliberately annoying and antagonizing each other, like this gun shop owner, who has decided that having voted for Obama proves you are too irresponsible to own a firearm. We’re dismissing each other as cartoon hobos holding bandana bundles tied to sticks and lazily demanding food, health care, and housing from the government in exchange for sitting around like lumps. We are demeaning each other as feeble-minded morons. We are trying to quit America, a fact I learned about on Veteran’s Day, which seemed ironically appropriate since 640,000 American soldiers gave their lives in the Civil War so that our Union would be preserved. We are calling for revolution. We are freaking out as though the world is ending. In short, we’re generally acting like a bunch of toddlers throwing world-class temper tantrums on cross country flights two days before Thanksgiving.
I’ll just come right out and say it: this is all complete lunacy. Nobody actually wants America to fail. Neither political party literally wants to reduce America to ashes and dust, or to rob hard working people of the fruits of their labor just because they had the unmitigated gall to be diligent and successful, or to steal a bowl of lumpy, lukewarm porridge out of the fingerless-gloved hands of a sickly, dirt-smudged orphan. None of us are mustachioed villans, rubbing our hands together gleefully while we hogtie Lady Liberty to some train tracks. When the national political conversation happens in the larger public forum of the internet and national media, we’re all ready to strangle each other, but as individuals, we know these caricatures are inaccurate. Both Republicans and Democrats have children, after all, and everyone wants a good life, meaningful opportunity, safety, and happiness for their kids. Democrats and Republicans are friends, family members, and spouses to each other–many of whom will, this week, gather around a Thanksgiving table and offer prayers of appreciation for one another.
The only way forward is for us to first, stop pretending that the other half of the country is either downright evil or a bunch of laughable fools. The second thing we need to do is, to put it tritely, compromise. But compromise is hard to manage, and in an atmosphere of hostility and disrespect, it seems to be nearly impossible. So let’s all resolve to contribute instead to an atmosphere of cooperation, appreciation for nuance and difference, and respectful dialogue. For a great example of how that might work, check out Living Room Conversations, a project co-created by MomsRising co-founder Joan Blades that seeks “to revitalize the art of conversation among people with diverse views and remind our fellow Americans of the power and beauty of civil discourse.”
And even though we’re all exhausted (from the election and, if you’re me, holiday shopping!), there’s other work for us to do, too. I think it’s safe to say that very few of us hold advanced degrees in public policy, and economics, and Constitutional law, and environmental engineering, and biology, and statistics, and anthropology, and psychology, and sociology, which means we’re not well-equipped to conduct individual analyses of every political controversy flung about in the media. But because we each have the ability to participate in and affect public discourse, we have the twin responsibilities of being both well-informed and reasonable. We need to actively vet the sources of our information–not every “expert” is created equal, after all–and think critically about the conclusions we are asked to accept. We need to be thoughtful and brave (not bellicose) about what our values are, and we need to extend sympathy to our fellow citizens. We need to acknowledge that we are facing complicated problems about which smart people can and do disagree, about which good people can and do disagree, but which are solvable, if we can manage to work together.
So when we sit down on Thursday to give thanks for every good thing we have, let’s keep in mind the words President Lincoln used in his 1863 Thanksgiving proclamation, and do our part to “heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it…to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.”