But some issues cannot be swept under the rug.  Some differences cut too deep to be glossed over.  

   It is impossible to ignore the Trump campaign’s rhetoric of hate, racism and misogyny, or to dismiss or excuse his crude personal attacks on decent people, as “just politics”.  To do that pours salt into the wounds inflicted by his rhetoric and misses a key point:  sometimes there is nothing “just” about politics in any sense.  

   Sometimes politics cannot be waved off as “just politics” and sometimes the outcomes of politics are just not just.   Sometimes “politics” is unavoidably personal.  And sometimes politics both reflects and challenges our deepest moral and ethical values, our fundamental sense of personal dignity, and the dignity of those we love. 

   This is one of those times.

   “More turkey?”  “Thanks, no thanks.  Had enough.”  It’s a sentiment that’s likely to come from both sides of the table.

   It is not the first time in our history that “politics” is more than “just politics”.  Slavery was not “just politics”.  It was a moral divide that pitted sibling against sibling and parents against children, unleashed a bloody conflict that tore our country apart, and left wounds that did not soon heal.  Indeed, the scars of those wounds persist to this day. 

   Neutrality, apathy and abstinence were not viable choices in 1860, and they are not viable choices now.  Sometimes the times demand that we choose, however imperfect the choices may seem.  Sometimes the times do not allow us to be passive bystanders. 

   This is one of those times.  As it was in Germany in the 1930s.  As it was in China in the Cultural Revolution and again in Tiananmen Square in 1989.  As it has been throughout human history.

  How, then, will these wounds heal?  How, then, will these divisions fade? 


Last Month:

Thoughts on a Not-so-Thankful Thanksgiving

Rod J. Howard
November 18, 2016

   This Thanksgiving, the news is full of reports of family invitations withheld, withdrawn or declined, and family gatherings cancelled or moved to distant locations to avoid awkward encounters and painful choices.  This Thanksgiving, the American family is deeply divided.  It’s regrettable, but it’s rightly and unavoidably divided.  The wounds of the election 10 days ago are not superficial, and for many members of the American family, the differences are too fundamental and the divisions are too deep to ignore or put aside.

   Much of the American family – a majority, actually – feels little to be thankful for this Thanksgiving: a hate-peddling sexual predator loses the popular vote by as many as 2 million votes (9 million if you count the third-party, “none of the above” and protest votes), but will be the next president through the archaic artifact of the Electoral College, an anachronistic and profoundly undemocratic 18th century compromise with roots in slavery and distrust.

   Deepening many Americans’ dismay, the lofty initial platitudes of unity delivered in the first few days after the election have quickly given way to the appointment of virulent extremists to key positions.

   Is it any wonder that the anger has not abated and the wounds remain raw?  Is it any surprise that Hispanic Americans and Islamic Americans feel little to celebrate and little reason to give thanks?  Or that the dismay of millions of our daughters has not diminished or disappeared? 

   It is painful to read reports of parents and grandparents turning their backs on their children and grandchildren, children demonizing and disowning parents and grandparents, friendships fractured, and spouses split into sullen estrangement.  

  Not by ignoring the wounds and divisions, that’s clear.  And not by relentlessly hacking at them either.  Maybe, in a strange way, this estrangement in the American family and in our immediate families will prove to be a turning point.  Maybe this estrangement will prompt people to pause, to realize the depths of the divide, and to pull back from the precipice that looms.

    The New York Times told recently of one father who voted for Trump and only learned afterwards how strongly and personally his daughter felt about the election – and about his vote:  “I knew she had some feelings, I just didn’t know how deep,” he reportedly said.  Discovering that, he said, “It was tough. It was very hard for me.”  Maybe more who voted as he did, and more abstainers who thought it doesn’t make a difference, will come to similar realizations. 

   On the other side of the electoral divide, maybe more left-leaning voters in their urban coastal bubbles (bubbles that I have inhabited for much of my life) will realize how badly people outside those bubbles have been hurt by the last 20+ years of lost jobs, closed factories, opioid abuse, social upheaval and economic decline.  Maybe they will get a glimmer of how frustrated millions of their fellow citizens in the Rust Belt must be, and how desperate for change they must be, to vote for a man whose flaws they, too, see.

   Maybe then, when we have truly begun to listen to one another, when we have begun to hear one another, the healing will begin and the American family will begin to come together again.


For news reports on this topic, see



The Week - Editor’s letter (Nov 25, 2016 edition, available Nov 18, 2016)