Election discussions at Thanksgiving tables must look ahead
By Audrey Peterman
“The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on . . .”
The words of the Persian philosopher Omar Khayyam ring as true as they did when he uttered them around the 11th Century and are eminently applicable for us today.
This Thanksgiving season, many Black families gathered around the celebratory table may still be in shock about the unexpected outcome of the elections, and some may even find dissension among us based upon our choice for President. A close relative told me over the past summer that many young Black men registering to vote for the first time were choosing to register Republican, and proudly vowing to vote for Trump. Several other people I know said they were choosing not to vote in “protest.”
So as we gather to give thanks to God, the sustainer of our world and our lives, it will be important to remember that the elections are behind us. We cannot go back and change the outcome, so there’s no point fighting over who did what. What’s important now is that we focus on how we can move forward together, upholding the ideal of “liberty and justice for all” that our country professes, and for which our ancestors gave their all as enslaved people, as soldiers in the US Armed forces and in so many other capacities for almost 500 years.
As a leader in the movement to protect our environment and the lands that have been conserved “for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people” (beginning in 1864 when President Lincoln took time away from pursuing the Civil War to set aside the first parcel in Yosemite National Park,) I have learned our country’s history by traveling from Alaska to the US Virgin Islands. Black Americans have so much to be proud of that, sadly, we don’t know. Frank and I try to ameliorate this deficit by describing these places of our history in two books, “Legacy on the Land” and “Our True Nature.”
Now more than ever our children and all of us need to know our history to deal with the challenges we will confront in the coming four years.
A big part of the President-elect’s campaign has been to exacerbate divisions among Americans, where before, we strove to emphasize our commonality as one nation. Imagine my surprise to wake up on Monday, the start of Thanksgiving Week, to a story in the New York Times: “Alt-Right Exults in Donald Trump’s Election With a Salute: ‘Heil Victory.’” If you don’t know what that means, you should hasten to research the Nazi salute.
The fact that these people are already so emboldened to speak in direct opposition to our democratic ideals is reason for serious concern. The young Black people and others who aspire to be like the President-elect will have a serious wake up ahead.
Instead of indulging in bitter dispute or resigning ourselves to the inevitable, I recommend that everyone google and read Nicholas Kristof’s article in the New York Times, “A 12-Step Program for Responding to President-Elect Trump.” I immediately took four of the suggested actions as soon as I read it Sunday morning.
This Thanksgiving Season, we Americans have a lot to be grateful for. As a person who lives in the company of God who I see all around me in nature, I am most grateful for the fact that He gives us the right to choose. How shall we choose in this day? I choose to pray and work toward liberty and justice for all.
(Audrey Peterman is an environmentalist and writer living in Fort Lauderdale. Earthws@aol.com)