Given our schedule at the paper, I am always a week behind you. So as you are committing this year’s Thanksgiving celebration to memory, I find myself in the middle of that special day thinking fondly of all the things I am grateful for.
As I observed last year, Thanksgiving is a holiday full of frenetic energy as we complete tasks in preparation for either hosting or visiting our family and friends. The day itself seems to be gone in the blink of an eye. The sentiment it represents transcends any 24-hour period and offers us a wonderful opportunity for quiet self-reflection.
With that in mind, last year I asked that we all do two things. First, I asked that we all try to recall our fondest memory of Thanksgivings past, appreciating all of the family and friends that we are forever indebted to. Put simply, what is your happiest Thanksgiving memory? Second, I suggested that we take stock in the present state of our lives and appreciate all the wonderful people that today give our lives richness and meaning.
As for me, when I reflect on my fondest Thanksgiving memories, I am drawn inexorably to the Thanksgivings of my youth. It was a time when there was no Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, no texting, computers, email, cell phones, pagers, cable television or many of the other things we have come to rely on today. The population of the United States was 165 million people. Gas was 23 cents a gallon and bread cost 18 cents. There were only three television stations: CBS, NBC and ABC. Douglas Edwards was the anchor for CBS’ national news show, which I might add was aired for 15 minutes each evening. Color television was a few years away. You received your television signal through “rabbit ears” on top of the set, or, if you were lucky, you had an antenna on your roof. “The Mickey Mouse Club” was a new show. The telephone was a huge source of communication. Many of us had to share our line (party lines) and you had to “dial” the phone number you were calling. People actually wrote letters to each other.
Our main source of information came from the print media. We didn’t yet know about the dangers of smoking; in fact, the cigarette companies advertised that their product actually enhanced your ability to concentrate and were not at all bad for your health. Movies cost 25 cents for adults. Dwight Eisenhower was president. There were conservative, moderate and liberal elected officials in both parties and oddly they seemed willing to work together. It was the 1950s and things seemed so much simpler then. Our dinner table was surrounded by my wonderful parents, sister, aunts and uncles, cousins and close family friends. We all loved each other. Family meant everything. Seen through my young and perhaps nalve eyes, America was one nation, getting better every year.
Most of the participants of my Thanksgivings of the 1950s have long since passed. Yet, that is no reason why they shouldn’t be remembered and cherished. Last year, “60 Minutes” had an intriguing interview with actor Mandy Patinkin, in which he revealed that before dinner he regularly speaks the names of all the people in his life who have died. When pressed as to why, he stated that he believes that as long as you are remembered you still exist.
The truth is that you don’t have to be a Hollywood star to understand the importance of being thankful for the people in your lives past and present. We have all been significantly influenced by our parents and relatives, friends and acquaintances who have given us so much over the years in so many ways. They deserve to be remembered, cherished and emulated!
So, as I reflect on all the people who have meant so much to me both past and present I have one additional thing to be so very thankful for—YOU.
I cannot adequately express to you how honored I am that you choose to share a few moments with me each week as I try to express (however inadequately) my take on life, philosophy, politics and society. It is my sincere hope that, even if we don’t see eye to eye on every point, you will at least appreciate that I am communicating with you from the heart with as much honesty and humility as I can muster.
I was taken aback by my fellow columnist’s admission this week that, had Hillary Clinton won the election, he would stop writing his column immediately out of a sense of despair. I have a slightly different response. Unlike my fellow columnist, the election result and the policies that President-elect Trump will implement are anathema to everything I believe in and have fought for all my adult life. I am not only disappointed with the outcome of the election but also (if not more so) with the level of discourse, the extreme level of hate and the inexcusable absence of tolerance for opposing points of view. Watching a video of “alt-right” sympathizers celebrate Mr. Trump’s victory by giving the Nazi salute was not what I anticipated seeing at the close of this election cycle.
Rather than give up, I for one will not give in to despair. In fact, I believe that during the next several years an honest and open discussion of the future course of our country is more necessary than ever. The voices that support fair and progressive government policies must not remain silent. Perhaps this holiday season that is the most important thing to be thankful for—that, in our country, the freedom to speak your mind is now and forever alive and well.