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In light of the damage that Donald Trump is doing to this country, this world, and the planet, this is a particularly hard pill to swallow but given the season and the stakes I believe it must be done. Another Thanksgiving is upon us and despite the fact that we are living in an alternative reality there are things that we can truly be thankful for. So in the spirit of hope and positivity I will offer a healthy dose of good wishes to all that sanity and reason will triumph over division and despair as we seek to navigate the rocky shoals of continued human existence.

Thanksgiving Wish

There are more Americans that desire to live in peace and harmony than who champion chaos. The trick is to ensure that the institutions and leadership of that majority prevail in our public discourse and the ultimate drafting of public policy that charts our ultimate course of action in dealing with issues that dramatically affect our immediate and long-term future. Restoration of a modicum of checks and balances in a system predicated upon compromise and deliberation is an essential first step.

What is called for, in my humble esti-mation, is a more dispassionate expression of differences that aims towards acknowledging different approaches to agreed upon goals.

This past weekend Bill Maher offered a prescription for dealing with our precariously divided society by simply refraining from engaging in political discussion. This cuts against the grain of active engagement that is at the core of our democratic experiment. I cannot simply turn the other cheek because the competitive fires that burn in my gut do not allow me to just walk away. Therefore I would like to offer a counter proposal. What is called for, in my humble esti-mation, is a more dispassionate expression of differences that aims towards acknowledging different approaches to agreed upon goals. Duking it out only deepens the chasm that current-ly exists among us. Pugilism disguised as populism must not encourage rational and sane minds to sink to the level of desperation inherent in a “win at any cost” (read America First) mentality.

I understand completely that my offer will require a measured level of argumentation but the stakes are rising by the day and the current course is so self-destructive that too many inno-cents will be sacrificed at the altar of self interest. The structural impediments to rational dis-cussion are enormous and we must really get back to basics. One of the most basic agree-ments must be on the notion that everyone is guaranteed the right to vote and that fair elec-tions are a hallmark of our system of governance. We really need to get back to basics be-cause the deeper we get into the weeds on complex public policy issues that greater the invi-tation to obfuscation and distraction. I have yet to hear anything resembling a coherent strate-gy for denying Americans the right to be represented.

As a child of the Sixties counterculture revolution I cannot help but think that the ideals of my youth were actually far more prescient and civilized than even I have given them credit for. To quote Elvis Costello, “what’s so funny bout peace, love and understanding?” or John Lennon’s “Imagine,” okay you can say I am a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, we were on the right track after all. I am surely thankful that to this day both I and my two sons listen to Arlo Guth-rie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” every Thanksgiving Day. How can we recapture the magic in thinking that world peace is the preferable course for our destiny?

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In both times of despair and exaltation I find myself returning to music and the lyrics of different phases of my life, which now spans seven decades. Music soothes the savage beast, it in-spires, it reminds us of pleasant memories and helps us take stock of challenges surmounted. It helps remind us that we all have successes and failures, victories and losses, and near hits and near misses. Yet we ultimately find ways to work through the difficulties and embrace new opportunities. That’s life, “riding high in April and shot down in May.” So let us be thankful that the ideas captured in song can help guide a new renaissance.

While the current misfortunes that befall us may seem monumental, they are no more so than many we have confronted before. We simply cannot allow our frustration to cloud our respect for those who are different from us, either in ideology, race, color, creed, culture or ethnicity. Failure to confront differences in a rational and civil manner diminishes our ability to solve problems without resorting to aggressive, violent, or other non-productive recourses.

So this year let us give thanks that we have the ability to tackle even the most intractable of issues, that we can argue without resorting to name calling or other derogatory gestures, that we can acknowledge differences without casting blame or derision, and that we can move the country forward in a way that benefits present and future generations, here and abroad.

I know this is a tall order but in the end is there anything more important? Showcasing our hu-manity is a noble and respectable ideal that should provide everyone with at least the prospect of a win-win solution to the current malaise that is stunting our growth. The defining precept of maturity is acceptance of our ability to agree to disagree. So lets put it to the test.

Battles over policies and politics will always be a constant in this and every other society. I would not be so foolish to suggest we should entertain notions of eliminating or even curtailing debate or deliberation over either. However, we must temper the existing rift that is tearing our country apart and this must be the singularly most important function that our elected leaders at all levels of government should agree upon and act accordingly.

If we can advance this basic premise of leadership then we truly will have achieved a great stride forward and something to truly be thankful for. As I write this closing argument Bruce Springsteen is singing “One step up and two steps back.” Let that not be a harbinger of what is to come, it has been the operating principle for far too long. United we stand, divided we fall/and if our backs should ever be against the wall/we’ll be together. That’s the spirit!

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Lance Simmens