Bruce Watson's Lifestyles: There’s much to be thankful for

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

In the wake of the current election, when all hands are wrung, all Facebook alarms posted, all dread exhausted — and that may take years — we need to remember that we still have a country. This is not, as a recent New York Times article headlined, “Trump’s America.” Neither he nor any president or politician owns this country, or ever will. This is our America.

As I did in the wake of 9/11, I made a little list. Few things are more American than lists. Laundry lists, grocery lists, lists of the Ten Things You Should Never Say at a Job Interview. We love lists, so in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here’s my list of American things be thankful for.

1. First, that we are still here. Having grown up under the nuclear shadow, ducked and covered, shuddered and feared, I never thought I’d see 2017 approach. Polls in the 1980s showed that more than half of Americans shared my despair for the future. Yet here we are. If we can survive that, what we’re facing now is small change.

2. Somewhere I remember a man writing, “I hear America singing.” Listen. Beneath the shouting, you can still hear it.

3. Appeals courts because everyone deserves a second opinion.

4. Iowa. Been there lately? I have and it’s still broad and flat and, to the visitor, dull. But people there LOVE it and that says a lot about them, and us. If I were making Rules for Americans, I’d mandate that everyone travel coast-to-coast — on land, not a flyover — at least once.

5. Langston Hughes’ poem:

Let America be America again.

Let it be the dream it used to be.

Let it be the pioneer on the plain

Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

6. And how about those Cubs? Underdogs, we love ’em.

7. Speaking of dogs, we have a long love affair with the canine species. Anywhere two or more are gathered in the name of dogs, it’s a party, a dog party! Cats? The popular vote is still out.

8. Somewhere I remember a woman telling an un-American Congressional committee, “I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.”

9. The new Smithsonian African-American Museum. Haven’t seen it yet but it’s about time, and I hear it’s unforgettable. And like all other Smithsonian museums, each a walk-through embodiment of lists, it’s free.

10. Jim Thorpe’s answer to the King of Sweden awarding him gold medals in the 1912 Olympics. KING: You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world. THORPE: Thanks, King.

11. That every TV, every tablet, every smartphone has an off button. It’s true! Check it out.

12. Somewhere I remember a woman writing, with delicious irony, “I’m nobody, who are you? Are you nobody, too?”

13. Because for every atrocity allegedly committed in “our name,” there are protests. Here’s Ralph Waldo Emerson writing to the president about “The Trail of Tears.” ”You, sir, will bring down that renowned chair in which you sit into infamy if your seal is set to this instrument of perfidy; and the name of this nation, hitherto the sweet omen of religion and liberty, will stink to the world.”

14. Because somewhere I remember a gruff-faced man staring into a camera and proclaiming: “We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, not if we dig deep in our own history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men.”

15. That we are descended from fearless women, including Alice Paul, Amelia Earhart, Barbara Jordan and Georgann Watson (my mother).

16. And because we are still, as our own state’s Constitution proclaims, “a government of laws, not of men.” 

There’s my list. Where’s yours?

Bruce Watson can be reached at breadandroses22@yahoo.com.