Deciding what to say on the topic of Thanksgiving 2017 wasn’t easy. The holidays arrive sooner, it seems, every year. And this season of family, friends and good food should allow one to slow down. Take a breath. But it feels as if we’ve been in overdrive since Jan. 20.
There are the usual Thanksgiving missives: Pass up the Black Friday commercial blitz and relish the holiday — been there. Don’t celebrate Thanksgiving at all; it pays homage to genocide and imperial conquest — read that.
But then an email notification flashed on my laptop. The subject line: “Giving thanks, from the left and the right.” Ding! Ding! Isn’t that just the issue we’re facing? Too much division? To be fair, the opinions were not presented as a pro-con coupling, but rather left-versus-right viewpoints with the holiday as a common thread. Still, why should America be split on one of the most basic of sentiments — being grateful for what and who we have in our lives? How could Thanksgiving possibly be partisan?
As a nation, we’re prepared to attack from our respective corners on every issue: religion, immigration, gun-control, taking a knee, pumpkin or sweet potato (the latter, hands down.) To keep the peace, many have decided to leave politics off the table this year. Policy differences now skip thoughtful debate and land in all-out war. A sad commentary to be sure. Pulling from Scripture, President Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” If you ask me, we’re teetering these days, largely because we’re too focused on differences instead of commonalities.
In her article “This Thanksgiving, I stand in gratitude for the dissenters,” Gabriela Lemus, president of Progressive Congress Action Fund and the voice of the left in these two viewpoints, states: “I am thankful for those who patriotically dissent, who stand up for true American values and refuse to be divided by hatred or bigotry.”
I’m onboard so far, though the definition of “patriotic dissent” certainly changes depending on the political leaning of those discussing it.
“The country is a tweet or executive order away from permanent damage to its government, infrastructure, health care, public education system and to its national security, not to mention nuclear war. Our economy does not work for working people, and the gap between the rich and everyone else grows daily. Climate change regularly causes disasters placing our communities in constant danger. Our country is fighting wars without end and without victory, costing lives and hurting families. Our roads and bridges are crumbling, and our voting rights are at serious risk. We must not and cannot accept the status quo. We are awakening.
“So, I am grateful to those willing to push back against the powerful with the ability to hurt the many to give only to the few and enrich themselves in the process.”
Cue the first-round bell, or turkey timer, given the season.
Republicans don’t paint such a dire picture of the nation’s direction. President Trump’s base, despite qualms with his approach to a few sensitive issues and personality quirks — There is no “I” in Trump, but he certainly focuses on himself a lot —staunchly supports him. And the current tug-of-war over tax reform isn’t an attempt to line the pockets of the wealthy, but rather a means to “help the people who are working paycheck to paycheck … keep more of their own hard-earned dollars,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told CBS News' "Face the Nation" last month.
To that point, in her article “I am thankful for how tax reform makes the ‘American Dream’ possible,” right-wing voice Patrice Onwuka says she and her husband look forward to rebuilding their savings thanks to simplification of the tax code.
“American families will most immediately feel the difference of lowered individual tax rates. While the House bill consolidates the rates from seven to four, both bills will deliver tax cuts for lower- and middle-class Americans.
“Consider these scenarios: A family of four earning a median income of $59,000 a year will get to keep $1,100 more of their hard-earned money. A single mom with a daughter working a $30,000 job will see her refund check increase $700, thanks to reforms under the House plan.”
Sounds good, but whether the middle class will see the benefits congressional leaders have promised has yet to be seen. The devil is always in the details.
Tax reform, health care, immigration — these are complex issues, and no kumbaya moment is going to fix them. But there are truths upon which we can stand united — humanity, kindness, gratitude.
Today I’d much rather read a bipartisan piece on giving thanks. I’d rather watch news coverage of a “purple” effort to feed people who, but for the generosity of others, didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. I’d rather hear of supportive gestures toward those whose pain of losing a loved one to violence in Las Vegas, New York City, and Sutherland Springs is still fresh.
Today, bring the cakes and pies in, and leave the divisiveness out. The fight for another TKO can wait.
Reach Sun Sentinel Editorial Page Deputy Editor Elana Simms at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElanaSSnews.