Thanksgiving Thoughts on Our Divided Nation

We wrote our first Thanksgiving blog for the Huffington Post in 2012 shortly after the presidential election of that year. Near the end of that blog, we observed, “One other thing we see as we look at our country is a citizenry that is more divided in values and perspective than it has been in the past.”

If that was true in 2012, it is ten times more true in this 2016 election year. This divide was widened considerably during the combative and contentious presidential contest. It continues to widen even more as post-election protests by supporters of the losing candidate and recriminations by supporters of the winning candidate play out in the streets and in the social media.

On this Thanksgiving Day, the concept of a united and unified America seems an alien one. In fact, it is almost impossible to contemplate.

That is why we think it is so appropriate and necessary to open this Thanksgiving blog with selected lyrics from the song, The House I Live In, recorded by Frank Sinatra to encourage unity and tolerance during World War II.

What is America to me?

A name, a man, or a flag I see;

A certain word, democracy.

The house I live in,

A plot of earth, a street,

The grocer and the butcher

Or the people I meet;

The children in the playground,

The faces that I see,

All races and religions,

That’s America to me.

The house I live in,

My neighbors white and black

The people who just came here,

Or from generations back;

The town hall and the soap box,

A home for all God’s children;

That’s America to me.

The house I live in,

The goodness everywhere,

A land of wealth and beauty,

With enough for all to share;

A house that we call Freedom,

A home of Liberty,

And it belongs to fighting people

That’s America to me.

We closed our 2012 Thanksgiving blog with those lyrics. In 2016, we open with them this Thanksgiving because we need a reminder of who we are and what we can be.

Yes, we Americans are fighting people. And, as we move to the end of this calamitous year, we are fighting with and among ourselves.

We are not thankful for that. But, we are thankful to live in this house. We are thankful to live in this democracy in which there is a peaceful transition of power.

We are thankful to live in this incredible nation built by and on the backs of immigrants.

We are thankful this election season is over. That’s so because we now have the chance to fight for each other rather than against one another.

We are thankful for the chance to work to close the divides: between the working class and the wealthy; between rural and urban America; between the inner cities and the suburbs; between people of different religious beliefs; between people of different ethnic backgrounds; between whites and people of color; between gay and straight; between the generations; between business and government; between conservatives and progressives; between the insiders and the outsiders; between fear and hope; between moving the country backward and moving the country forward; between perception and reality.

These are some of the divides. There are many others. They all demand and deserve attention.

On December 23, 1776, during the darkest days of the Revolutionary War, Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from their service, but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

On this Thanksgiving Day, we will bow our heads and give love and thanks to all those men and women who have fought to keep and bring this divided nation together during the trying times since it was created. We will also say a prayer for those men and women who will commit themselves to working collaboratively with others of good will to build bridges to close the divides of these trying times.

Finally, we will give thanks for America the house we live in. In doing so, we will recognize that it is not perfect. It still has that old glass ceiling and could benefit from some new additions and a little 21st-century remodeling and upgrades. But, it is still a very fine house – one worth fighting for.

On this Thanksgiving, may God bless your home, the house in which we Americans live, and the world in which we reside.

Happy Thanksgiving!