By Marybeth Hagan
Thanksgiving couldn't have come soon enough after this recent election season.
The presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and the divisive identity politics that went with it, split us apart. We the People are broken into the factions the Founding Fathers feared. To become one nation indivisible again, we'd best be grateful.
Thankfulness for beloved family members and friends, and those who share our political views and preferences, is easy. The same cannot always be said about appreciating people with whom we have our differences, personal or political. Practicing gratitude leads one to see the good in others, which leads people to agree to disagree respectfully, a.k.a. civility.
Plus, with an attitude of gratitude, one often finds the silver lining in adversity.
And yes, believe it or not there is a silver lining to the tumult caused by the presidential election of 2016. It was evident everywhere I went in the days following the election. People gathered on streets and in shops and in bars and at churches, rather than under the cover of social media, and talked face-to-face about the upset. There was none of the usual chatter about pursuits of happiness like TV shows, sports, movies, restaurants or vacation spots. This election awakened us from our stupor. As a people, we're finally focused on the well-being of our country. We seem determined to hold our elected leaders accountable. We're even showing signs of being patriotic.
My heart went out to a number of sincerely distressed voters with whom I spoke after the election. Some appeared to be dazed, as if they were in a state of shock. A few seemed fearful. One was close to tears. To their credit, these people weren't throwing postelection temper tantrums on Narberth's main street as demonstrators in other places did.
Still, I must admit to being somewhat bewildered by the intensity of their disappointment. Was it because these voters, like most of the pollsters and the press, assumed Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in for president? Or was it because they had invested too much hope in Clinton, as if she was some sort of a female deity? If the election had gone the other way and Trump lost, would his supporters have been so dazed and devastated?
Life teaches us the limits to our control of its outcomes. None of us know for sure what tomorrow will bring. This presidential election brought these truths to light. We've been humbled. But humility can go a long way. It might even bring more of us to our knees.
Why not model this Thanksgiving on pilgrim-style progressiveness?
The earliest settlers initiated Thanksgiving in 1621 by first thanking God. They focused on what they had, a plentiful harvest, not on their hardships. The pilgrims were equally thankful to the Almighty for newly found friendship with the Wampanoag Native people, who were instrumental in the settlers' survival. This relationship was based on mutual need. The Wampanoags were weakened by plague due to diseases that earlier European traders brought ashore. So natives and newcomers put aside their differences and showed one another respect.
This Thanksgiving, surely we can all agree to be grateful for "the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." When our founders composed and signed the U.S. Constitution in 1787, they established freedoms for us that would be dreams-come-true for souls suffering under tyrannical rulers in other lands. Yes, we shamed ourselves in allowing the scourge of slavery onto our shores until it was outlawed by the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. Still, the Preamble never promised a perfect Union. It begins, "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union." With God's grace, courageous patriots like the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us how to peacefully strive for further perfection in our land.
Continued efforts to form a more perfect Union will be futile if we are a nation divided.
When the British tax-imposing Townshend Acts of 1767 created political strife, John Dickinson, the Founding Father who was dubbed the "penman of the Revolution," composed "The Liberty Song" to encourage the colonists. Dickinson wrote:
Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall;
In so righteous a Cause let us hope to succeed,
For Heaven approves of each generous Deed.
Thank God the presidential election is finally behind us. Let's count our lucky stars and stripes this Thanksgiving and make partisan peace with one another.