Scoot: Thanksgiving in a deeply divided America

November 22, 2017 - 5:20 pm

Thanksgiving – a time to take a break from the daily debates that remind us how divided we are a nation. But that is not easily done.

Let’s be honest – the simple question while carving the turkey of whether someone prefers the “right wing” or the “left wing” is enough to inspire that disgruntled uncle to launch into a monologue of what’s right or wrong with President Trump, Roy Moore, Al Franken, Charlie Rose, North Korea, Vladimir Putin, the tax reform plan and, of course, the role the media plays in brainwashing America!

But it’s Thanksgiving – can’t we just let all that go? Written accounts of the first Thanksgiving in America are sketchy at best, but a collection of the little that was documented paint a picture of the true spirit that should be part of every Thanksgiving gathering.

The early colonists arrived in the New World in 1620 and by the fall of 1621, nearly half had died from exposure to the elements and various diseases. Native Americans taught the Pilgrims to grow corn, fish in the rivers and find sustainable food.

That fall in 1621, the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans shared the fall harvest in what is believed to have been the first Thanksgiving. Historians have patched together the few accounts of that celebration into a picture of the Native Americans helping the new colonists survive and how they all came together to give thanks.

History shows that the friendly relationship Native Americans may have had with the early colonists did not endure, but the meaning behind the first Thanksgiving is worth noting in the context of the current great American divide.

Imagine how differently the early colonists and Native Americans looked to each other. Imagine the language barriers and the clothes. And yet, there was an innate human bond that superseded the obvious differences. That’s what we have lost today.

In America, we have allowed our differences to erase the innate human bond we should feel toward each other. We not only divide ourselves into groups, but we are so protective and territorial about the group to which we belong that we shed our human side and wear our differences like protective armor.

The moments we come together as humans first are few and often inspired by a tragic event. It shouldn’t take a tragedy to make us one. We are gravely divided by race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, and especially, by our political ideology.

Being different is one of the great rights we have in America; but being different to the point where hate-inspired rhetoric from both sides on every issue defies our very name – the “United” States of America.

As I have often talked about on my radio show, disagreeing is fine – in fact, it’s actually fun; but when we suspend facts that are inconvenient to our bias we step beyond a fine line that holds our society together.

I don’t think the great divide, in particular, along partisan lines, is destined to change anytime soon. At this point, it’s hard to imagine what it is that will return us to the normalcy of having heated debates without wishing the other side would leave this country. My hope is that it does return.

And so, for those of us who are fortunate enough to have a place at a Thanksgiving gathering, let’s think about how different the two groups were when they came together on that first Thanksgiving in 1621.  A symbolic understanding of how Thanksgiving can be a time of putting aside our differences and coming together lies in the fact that in 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that Thanksgiving would be a national holiday every November.

Happy Thanksgiving! And good luck keeping the conversation civil!

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