Posted by Curt on 25 November, 2015 at 6:54 pm. 4 comments already!


Charles C. W. Cooke:

To read the political blogs during the extended run-up to Thanksgiving is to feel like a newly conscripted soldier who has just been handed a dull inaugural mission. At SalonVox, the Huffington Post, and beyond, DIY campaign advice abounds. Online, earnest partisans can discover how to “disarm,” “shut down,” and “defeat” their “crazy right-wing uncle” (it’s always the uncle, isn’t it? — maybe the GOP should start an outreach program?); they can learn how to sell Obamacare or immigration reform or abortion-on-demand to their grandparents; and they can benefit from step-by-step guides to “destroying” any member of their family who still believes that the Bill of Rights is a good idea.

As recipes for dinner-table carnage go, we are now spoiled for choice. Finally, nearly four centuries after the Pilgrims landed, Americans are able to spend the last Thursday in November armed against their own kin. Quite why we have accepted without question that the kitchen should serve as a field of pitched battle is unclear. We do not gather together at Thanksgiving so that we might serve as proxies in the ongoing war between ThinkProgress and Breitbart. We gather together because, despite our real and important differences, we are the heirs to an extraordinary tradition and we have a great deal for which to be thankful.

Putting the merits to one side, there is something rather totalitarian about the injunction to hijack a ceremonial meal and read talking points prepared by partisans of the state. One does not have to be a right-winger to acknowledge this. For now, the concoction of turkey-time propaganda is a primarily left-wing pursuit. But it will not always be thus. If, as is possible, the Republican party is given another chance to usher in some meaningful national reforms, conservatives too will be tempted to inject politics where it does not belong. They should steadfastly abstain from doing so.

Why? Well, because a civil society that craves uniformity is no civil society at all. At the root of our newfound “destroy your cousins!” approach is a rank and unhealthy insecurity: specifically (to adapt a line from Mencken), the fear that someone, somewhere might be taking positions of which you disapprove — and, even worse, that they might be right.

Normal human beings take disagreement in their stride. Confident and knowledgeable people can talk in detail without the need for prepared scripts and prescriptive flowcharts. The truly open-minded do not panic when confronted with the prospect of dissent. Do you know who does? Zealots, that’s who. Automatons. Incompetent missionaries, whose sole aim is to export their presumptions around the world without ever learning a thing about their charges.

When discussing hypothetical “crazy right-wing uncles,” the authors of our now-seasonal “How To” guides strike a self-consciously condescending pose. “Look at that guy,” they say, rolling their eyes ostentatiously. “I can’t even.” But perhaps they actually can’t. Perhaps, absent instructions, they would be left with little more than a primal scream.

A common criticism of Thanksgiving is that it encourages Americans to fetishize or romanticize their country, and thus to ignore its shortcomings. I do not find this convincing. For a people to stop for a moment and reflect upon what is good about their lives is not necessarily for them to forget their problems. A poor man who spends lavishly for a day is still poor, just as a rich man who lives modestly for a day is still rich. An hour a week in church does not a fanatic make.

The United States is a resilient sort of place, and its people are wholly capable of surviving an annual holiday without resorting to political cage-fighting. You’re worried about this or that, and you hope to see change? Me too. And I’m probably as passionate about it as you are. But the battleground will still be there tomorrow. We really don’t need to ruin anybody’s evening over it.

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