This Thanksgiving, Try Serving Some Civility
This Thanksgiving, Try Serving Some Civility
Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously had a very close friendship. They were as different, politically, as two people could possibly be, but it didn’t preclude them from enjoying each other’s company and finding a way to bridge the divide between them. And this Thanksgiving, that friendship should serve as an example that we all need to follow.
People across the country will be gathering tomorrow to visit family and friends. They will be sharing food, making memories. And they’ll be giving thanks for the multiple blessings they all have — and this is all as it should be. But that spirit of togetherness should go further than just the dinner table. And it’s something that is sorely needed.
The country is, arguably, the most divided it has been in decades. It’s not just limited to within the halls of Congress or the pages of our newspapers. It has invaded our lives, infiltrated our thoughts. No longer do we look at people who disagree with us as just that; no, now they are the enemy, people to be feared, looked down upon, and defeated. Once, we looked at our political opponents as people who weren’t evil, but merely wrong. Now, they aren’t just wrong. They’re evil, the lowest of the low, whose political beliefs are so awful that it’s better to have a serial child molester in office, or a serial rapist, than someone of the opposite party.
What has happened to this country?
We need to remember how grateful we should be to live where we do, and also, how very small our political differences are in the grand scheme of things. First, our life in this country, on this world, is temporary; we will all eventually die, and when we meet the Almighty Father, will He approve of our nasty attitudes towards our neighbors? Will He agree that it is good to have constantly thought the worst of everyone around you? Will He applaud our collective wallowing in hatred and anger? Our fear and disgust towards those whose only “sin” is being different? God called on us to love one another, and there were no qualifiers. That means that we’re even supposed to love those who disagree. Second, it’s worth remembering that politically, nothing lasts forever. Republicans hold the White House and Congress now. We won’t always. Democrats inevitably will take back power at some point. And then, Republicans will take it back from them again. And so it will go, on and on and on, forever — because that is the cyclical nature of politics. What is the better way to go about things, then? To demonize your opponents, or find ways to bridge the gap between you and them? What will serve you better when, inevitably, your party is no longer in power?
Some may wonder what this has to do with Thanksgiving. And to get your answer, one needs only look to Abraham Lincoln.
It was October 3, 1863, and the United States was in the midst of the civil war, which would not end for another two years. Yet Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving proclamation anyway, declaring the last Thursday of November to be set aside as a national day of thanks. This was while the country was at war; neighbors fought against neighbors, and it seemed that the country was perhaps irrevocably damaged. It seemed that the country may never heal. Yet Lincoln emphasized togetherness and unity, even in the midst of civil war.
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
Just two months later, Lincoln would address Congress and announce his plans to deliver amnesty to the Confederates, when the war ended. And two years later, Lincoln stood by his word. He offered pardons to Confederate soldiers, and declined to charge them with treason. Why? Because his goal was to unify the country, not further divide it. Reconstruction and reunification would not be possible if the Union continued to look at the Confederates, their neighbors to the south, as the enemy. The country had to heal. To come together again.
Today, we need more Lincolns, and less Trumps. Yes, we’re angry. Yes, things don’t always go our way. But what will heal the country, and what will further hurt it? What will satisfy a temporary itch, and what will actually help solve the problem?
Justices Scalia and Ginsburg opposed each other on many issues. They voted against each other countless times. And yet they loved each other; they had a friendship that spanned decades. They cracked jokes about each other, complimented the other’s work, and shared holidays together with their families. Even in their disagreements, they were courteous; Ginsburg pointed out of one case that Scalia gave her his dissent as soon as possible, so that she would be able to properly respond. They debated, they disagreed, but it was respectful, and they refused to let those disagreements color their opinions of each other.
Ginsburg, upon Scalia’s passing, said that they were “best buddies”, and made each other better at their jobs. She beautifully eulogized Justice Scalia at his memorial service:
God bless the United States of America, and happy thanksgiving.