Las Vegas Sun

December 5, 2019

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Where I Stand:

Thanksgiving no longer immune to what ails US

A time of thanksgiving. During a time of great question.

This past week is my favorite time of year. I look forward to Thanksgiving Day, which follows two weeks of setting tables, rearranging them, changing them and then, returning them to their original state.

That leads to three days of cooking, preparing, changing recipes, early mornings and longer nights during which the kitchen sees more activity than the entire rest of the year — at least at my house.

And, finally, Thanksgiving Day. That’s when family and friends gather at homes, hotels and restaurants across the valley to celebrate our incredible good fortune to be living in America, this land of plenty which has given us more than any other people at any other time and at any other place on this Earth.

It is a time for family.

This year was no exception. Except ...

The sounds of young children and young adults around our Thanksgiving tables are probably the main reason why so many Americans choose this as a favorite holiday. It is all about family, about enjoying food made and eaten with love, and about the nature of generations coming together to learn from one another.

It is about passing the idea of being thankful for all that we have on to the next generations so that they, too, will appreciate those who have come before — from the Pilgrims who suffered the hardships of 17th century living in the settlement of Plymouth, to those who have fought and died in our wars through the centuries, to those who work lifetimes making our communities better places to live and,yes, to our families who shelter and care for us and love us without qualification.

It is also a time when life lessons are discussed around the dinner table so that those newer generations can learn about American values like truthfulness, honor, loyalty and integrity from the people they trust most — their families.

That is why these past two weeks have been so disturbing leading up to Thanksgiving week.

It has been impossible to ignore the message coming out of our nation’s capital through the impeachment hearings of President Donald Trump. It is a message that was heretofore unimaginable in the United States of America — home of the free and land of the brave.

To be sure, good and decent Americans have come forth to testify under oath to the House of Representatives about what they knew, what they did and what their actions and those of their colleagues meant to the safety and security of all Americans.

If ever there was an opportunity to teach our young people the value of truth-telling and the values of honesty and integrity and loyalty to country, the solemnity of an impeachment proceeding might be that one place where such lessons could be learned.

Instead, and in light of sworn testimony given by public servant after career public servant that leaves no doubt about where the truth lies, we have witnessed grown people obfuscate, prevaricate and ignore what a fifth-grader knows to be the facts.

What kind of lesson is it for the newer generations who are now learning, for example, that when people with no motives to lie and who tell the truth at great risk to their careers are subjected to mental and, yes, physical torment by our elected leaders — not to mention a few demented followers? And, yes, in today’s world where morality and reality are stood on their heads, there are Republicans in the Congress who continue to live in alternate universes where facts have no place and reality never bites?

How do we explain to our kids around our Thanksgiving tables that grown ups, who have sworn to protect and defend us, actually turn their backs on the truth and spit on the reputations of those who tell it? Dissension and discussion at the table must always be welcome if we are to teach from generation to generation, but to require the suspension of reality to engage in those conversations may be too high a price to pay.

This past week brought with it an unpleasant and, I believe, unhealthy although completely valid response from an important member of my house and, frankly the one person who makes all this family stuff work.

It was an offhand but long overdue comment about the nature and makeup of our Thanksgiving dinner list. It went something like this: I am happy that the people coming this year are like-minded about this president because I don’t want to see this holiday ruined.

Of course she spoke the truth — she always does. But how sad were those words that I suspect were uttered across this county?

Our polarization as a country has infected Thanksgiving! The one time we gather as family and friends to count our blessings has become that time when we must count out those who would disrupt an otherwise most joyous occasion.

Destroying the institutions of government and attacking our democratic norms have become just part of what our president has done. And now we can add Thanksgiving joy to the list.

Thankfully, because of our like-minded guest list, this Thanksgiving continued a tradition of great fun with family and friends. But, I must admit, something very American was missing. And that was our desire to engage in a tolerant and respectful way with those with whom we disagree about this president.

He ain’t quite the Grinch, but he has managed to steal a small piece of what Thanksgiving is all about.

But, we live in hope. And my hope for all Americans of goodwill is that Thanksgiving 2020 will have a more expansive guest list.

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.