By Anthony Corona
The last Thursday in November is a special day for the United States in so many ways. I was taught as a child about the spirit of friendship and cooperation between the early settlers and the Native Americans. I was taught it was a holiday to give thanks for those who persevered through hardships and hard times, to forge the great nation we live in. I was taught to give thanks for all we consider American – freedoms and liberties as well as for all we are able to enjoy and achieve. In the last few years it has become harder to feel the true spirit of the holiday the way I was taught as a child. It’s harder to find the thanks. So, I propose to assign a new spirit of this incredible American Holiday: Thanksgiving as: peace, love and understanding.
Its easy to be thankful for the food and company at our tables. Easy to give thanks for the health and well being of ourselves and those we love. It isn’t a long stretch to wish for peace in our hearts and in our world. However, it’s much harder to give thanks for others in our world who don’t see or experience the world the same way we do. It feels like the last few years of pandemic and political warfare have moved our country further away from the true spirit of America more than any time ever before in our history. We find division around every corner and in almost all of our national conversations. How can we affect a change? Is it the responsibility of those who lead us to fix the problems dividing us? The answer is both yes and no.
We need our leaders to lead by example. We need those with platforms to speak, act and govern in a manner that represents the will of the people and in ways that unite rather than drive the divide. Having said that, it’s our job to hold them accountable. To check the balances of power with the derived powers granted to each one of us by virtue of the greatest governmental document on the planet, our constitution.
Our personal responsibility goes even further. Our personal responsibility should summon the American spirit in all we do. Taking responsibility demands that we accept personal accountability for what’s in our hearts and minds, and it extends to holding our fellow community members to the same standards of decency and cooperation we expect of ourselves.
Furthermore, we need to approach all of those Americans who, like us, are about to celebrate the uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving with love, peace and most important, understanding. Understanding is all too often confused with agreement. Disagreement is confused with weakness, and so disagreements escalate into even more division. Where there is an unwillingness to listen, understanding is impossible.
Lately, day by day, we listen less and shout louder – making our points of agreement with the people who see the world the way we do, and eluding any acceptance, or understanding, from the people with whom we disagree.
We can never return to the spirit that defined the Thanksgivings of years gone by unless we reset our behaviors and approach our interactions with other people with understanding. We must hold ourselves personally responsible to adopt an understanding nature and a willingness to agree to disagree.
I am thankful that this country was founded on the principal that everyone is equal and has the birth given right to their feelings and beliefs. I know our forefathers fell short of achieving those ideals in many ways. But, their desire to create a country continuously building towards those ideals represents the greatest advance in human governing ever. However, without the willing participation of those governed, these ideals cannot be achieved, and with diminishing commitment by too many of us, we backslide, and as this Thanksgiving approaches, we run a severe risk of loosing it all.
It’s so simple. Peace, love and understanding. Giving these gifts from our hearts is the best way to bridge the divide. Allowing people to think and feel for themselves without judgement and ridicule is the tool in the box that will shore up the foundation that was built for us almost 250 years ago.
We members of the American Council of the Blind are very lucky in this regard. We already have so many of the tools in our proverbial toolbox that contains love and peace and understanding. Our community offers so many places and people to connect with, to commiserate with, and so many of these connections are worthy of celebration. There is our dedicated advocacy team, our hard-working staff, all the various committees, state and special-interest affiliates. Most important of all, we have each other in times both good and bad.
So as we gather around tables or electronic devices this year, I implore us to rethink all of the ways we can accept accountability, and to consider a new spirit of thankfulness, one that encompasses love, and peace, and understanding. Happy Thanksgiving, ACB.