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Thanksgiving 2015

An unsolicited opinion (or a Thanksgiving Prayer, of sorts)

[Note: I originally posted this to Facebook in November 2015. I no longer have a Facebook account. I am reposting it here in somewhat edited form.]

I've generally avoided saying anything about Donald J. Trump.

For someone so unworthy of regard, he sure gets a lot of it, and I've generally avoided adding to it. I certainly don't see him as a buffoon anymore (harmless or otherwise). I kept holding out hope that he's a wind-up merchant -- not just the campaign, but the entire public persona -- and that one day he'd announce "I'm just kidding, folks. I was curious to see exactly how far I could take this."

I can't recall such a level of xenophobia, except in the days following 9/11. Otherwise, in my lifetime, I can't recall anything at all like it since the First Gulf War. If Trump hasn't actually caused this himself, then he's certainly gotten a lot of mileage from riding the wave. During that birth certificate episode in 2011, Trump came off as a playground bully, the equivalent of someone taunting another kid: "You're not a boy. Oh yeah? Pull down your pants and prove it!" I didn't think Obama should have dignified Trump with a response, figuring that we're not on the playground anymore.

Of course, Trump is not the only one. Last week another candidate made a comment, "wake up and smell the falafel." I'm sure it was supposed to be jocular, an attempt at humor in keeping with the candidate's folksy persona. I didn't find any humor in it at all. In the aftermath of the First Gulf War, the owner of the restaurant where I had happily first tried falafel was on the news. He was a Palestinian, but had emigrated via Iraq. A local television station interviewed him after the FBI had questioned him and other people who had lived in Iraq. He was dumbfounded by this, explaining that he was an American now. Not long after the news appearance, the restaurant was subjected to a bomb threat.

I give thanks that I've never been a target of such attitudes. I give thanks that I was born after a time when these attitudes were not only more commonplace, and not only accepted, but enforced by law.

I've worked with and for Muslims. I've traveled with them, and I've sat and broken bread with them. I can't imagine subjecting a friend to any of the treatment that Trump is proposing and I think that it is utterly shameful that they have to endure him saying these things. I wouldn't even wish any of this on those with whom I've had personal grievances (and I've had 'em). And for that matter I've worked with and for Mexican Americans, and sat and broken bread with them, as well.

I give thanks for an abundance of bread, and I give thanks that I've never experienced a shortage of bread.

As for the concerns about Syrian refugees among us: actually, I think it's possible that a potential attacker could slip in that way, and I would be lying if I said it didn't worry me. (I think it's unlikely, but I don't think it's impossible.) At the same time, that doesn't mean that thousands of others don't genuinely need our help. Which of these is more important? If we truly believe in our freedoms and our values -- the huddled masses yearning to breathe free; the least of our brethren; loving our neighbors; etc. -- then we should be brave enough to die with those freedoms and values (if not necessarily die for them -- actually I'd say we owe this much to those who did). I'm not advocating carelessness, or recklessness, and I certainly don't want to be killed, nor for anyone else to be killed, as the result of such an attack. But at some point, we either stand for these things, or we do not.

Happy Thanksgiving