So maybe we should just cancel Thanksgiving this year?
It’s probably an attractive idea to many of those now traveling over the river and through the woods for turkey, cranberry sauce, and political arguments that promise more angst than a flat tire in a thunderstorm. It grows increasingly clear that the problem in America just now isn’t that we disagree with one another.
It is, rather, that we hate one another.
You may think that an overstatement, but the word is used advisedly. Take the case of GOP senatorial candidate Roy Moore as an example. As you surely know, some putative Christians still support him despite credible charges that he has a history of perverted behavior toward teenage girls.
Indeed, a preacher named David Floyd dismissed the charges as “an attempt by the Democrats to sway voters in Alabama." It seems many of the same self-appointed guardians of public morality who are poleaxed at the idea of two men holding hands can muster no opprobrium for a grown man who allegedly felt up a 14-year old girl.
Which is hypocritical, yes. But it is hateful, too.
Faced with choosing between an alleged child molester and a Democrat, these people find the latter more objectionable? Apparently so. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said that while she considers his accusers credible, she’ll still support Moore because: “I believe in the Republican Party, what we stand for …”
And suddenly one struggles to even remember what that was. “Family values?” Is that part of it? Does that ring a bell?
In fairness, many Republicans have repudiated Moore. Also in fairness, it took many of them several long days to do so. No, the question this all raises will not be denied: If you prefer a child molester to a Democrat, how much must you hate Democrats? More to the point, how much do we all now hate one another?
Which is not to imply moral equivalence; there is none. When you find yourself defending coarseness, mendacity, incompetence, and now child molestation, you may be certain you do not occupy the moral high ground. You can be just as certain that you are on the wrong side of history.
No, the point is just that we live in mutual contempt, right loathing left, left loathing right. It makes the ritual of Thanksgiving feel jarring, an ideal starkly at odds with the bitter reality of the moment.
Or maybe not. After all, the ritual began during the Civil War, as brothers slaughtered one another over momentous questions of slavery and freedom. It survived the Depression, when the jobless and hungry filled the air with threats of revolution. It survived the Sixties, when Vietnam loomed between parents and children at the family table.
It survived other times when we hated each other. It survived when some of us hated the country itself.
Now it arrives in this moment of existential chaos, this era when so many have lost themselves in cognitive dissonance and situational morality. An accused child molester for U.S. Senate? Really?
Yet even in this charged moment, over the river and through the woods we go, maybe not because we want to, but because we have to, because that’s what you do. We will arrive to tables laden with turkey and dressing, cakes and pies and other good things, where many of us will sit in awkward tension and even open rancor with people we love because they are family and friends, yet hate because they are monstrously wrong.
It makes one thankful for Thanksgiving itself. However grudgingly we mind it, this ritual still binds us. It still makes us one.
And right now, little else does.