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home : insight & opinion : guest columns June 28, 2016

11/8/2012 1:47:00 PM
A moment to act nice, and give thanks
For the Daily News

Imagine post-election America as the hour before Thanksgiving dinner.

We've gathered. There were hardships to be endured. Some had it easier than others, but everyone had their difficulties in coming and taking the time to show an interest in one another.

Aunt Gladys brought the green bean casserole again, just like she does every year, and as a courtesy we will all take a little and tell her how good it is, even though we may not mean it. She has feelings, poor thing, and lives alone now that she drove uncle Herbert to his grave.

We still have two kinds of dressing, recognizing the family schism from several generations ago when that southern gal married in - one made with cornbread and with oysters, one with good old white bread like it ought to be. Potatoes are likewise divided, some are mashed and served with pockets of butter and some are sweet and cooked with brown sugar and buried under a layer of melted marshmallows.

The main dish is still the big bird, and we all like that and there's plenty of to go around. Its aroma fills the house and we all breathe it in and are patient, knowing that a bounty awaits us. Also waiting will be that little gelatinous slug of cranberry-whatever that Grandma pushes out of a can because Grandpa liked it. It could go, as Grandpa did some time ago, but we will pass it around anyway and think kind thoughts about him, and it, as if they were linked somehow.

We will say grace together, although most of us don't at home anymore, and when Grandma goes with the rest of her generation, that will probably end as well.

What we have in the first few minutes, after we've all arrived and brought our dishes and taken off our coats and greeted one another again, is what we have in our country right now. We have a new opportunity to be cordial. Oh, we may have spoken on the phone or texted on another in the days and weeks before we got here - no one writes letters anymore - but we probably have not gotten together as a family since last Christmas, and then there were some missing who took the kids to Disney, or went on that cruise they'd always promised themselves. This is it for us, really, now that we are all back together, and the question pokes out like cousin Alice's teenage belly; what are we going to do about it?

Bill could start in again about how tough farmers have it and why he thinks the government should do more to help them and family farms in general. Sally could add that she's sick and tired of doing the same work as the men at her plant and not being paid as well or given the chance for overtime. The young people, if they talk at all, might say they'd just like to have a job, but they will stick to things they understand and can relate to, which are small and hand-held and digital. Complaints could be made about the cost and inconvenience of the whole affair and how ineffectual it is in terms of real accomplishment, and suggestions might follow about how the money could be better spent. Grandma's garage has needed painting for a decade and will probably fall down before any of us picks up a paintbrush, but hey! This is a holiday and I'm not working alone here.

Or... and this is the one I hope for....

This will be the time that we all act like we should, and are nice about it. Gladys will be asked for her recipe, Bill will be complimented on his stewardship of the land, Sally will be lauded for raising her children up right, working a full-time job, and still finding time to sew.

That could happen if we all just followed Grandma's simple rule: "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." Sure it's a little strained now and then, and there are opportunities for criticism that are missed, but surely, after the bombardment of negative advertising we have all just endured, we could go for a bit of pretense that things are not as bad as some people say.

So, now that the election is over, bite your tongue, bow your head, and give thanks that we all live in a country where we can peacefully express our opinions and vote our conscience and that it is still, and always will be, the greatest country of all. God Bless America. Now, pass the turkey...

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