Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving Day is, like everything else these days, shrouded in controversy. The specific controversy surrounding Thanksgiving is related to the relationship between indigenous populations and immigrants from Europe. The specifics about controversies surrounding seemingly everything else in our society are simply too numerous and complex to talk about in a brief blog post.

Even given the fractured state of our nation, it is still the case that we have and can find much for which to be thankful today.   But it’s hard to dwell on the things for which we can be thankful when our country seems to be slipping more and more into what observers of politics around the world have called a “backsliding democracy.”

My dark mood has been triggered by the document released by the White House yesterday declaring that the military troops along our southern border can be authorized to use “lethal” force under some circumstances in their dealings with civilians. The Border Patrol is a heavily armed, well-trained police force that really does not need the Army to protect it. And the fact that the civilians involved are not citizens is, to me, largely irrelevant – the point is that using an army to police a domestic population is one more step in the direction of authoritarian rule that should trouble all of us.

Our current “leader,” with the collusion of too many citizens and politicians, has engaged in the classic hat trick of dictatorship: fostering fear, undermining democratic institutions, and creating a cult of personality.

We should all fear the “caravan” on its way to invade the US. But, of course, now that the mid term elections are over, we don’t mention that anymore. But there are many other things, mostly brown and foreign things, of which we should be afraid. Never mind that you are far more likely to be shot and killed by a white guy with a gun than you ever are to be harmed by an immigrant. Fear of blacks, fear of browns, fear of gays, fear of immigrants, fear of Korea, fear of Iran, fear of Democrats – fear of Canada for heaven’s sake – are part and parcel of our current political climate.

The basic democratic institutions that make this country different from dictatorships are constantly under attack. The judiciary is maligned. Rule of law is threatened. And, of course, there is “fake news” – any news that accurately reports what the “leader” does or says. As an aside, if he doesn’t want it reported, perhaps he shouldn’t do or say it. But vilifying the free press works a lot better with those who are attracted to demigods.

The “leader” once said that he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and his base would not desert him. That’s probably true. When caught quoting Mussolini, he was either unaware of the context, or just didn’t care that he was aligning himself with a supporter of what can be justly described as the world’s worst cataclysm. He might be wise to remember how Mussolini finished his days, but no dictator thinks he’s personally headed for a bad end.

I have avoided political posts for a long time, partially because I was in a position that made making political statements problematic, and partially because I assume very few care what I think. But I fear for our country, and even the catharsis of putting that down in writing today makes it a bit easier to see through the fog to some of the things for which we all have to be thankful.

Enjoy your families. Don’t talk politics. Look for positive things to celebrate, and shun the dark.

Happy Thanksgiving.