Today is a special day on the American calendar. Thanksgiving was established as a national day of “thanks” by President Washington in 1789. In 1941 Congress passed a Joint Resolution proclaiming the celebration of Thanksgiving annually on the fourth Thursday of November. We have come to celebrate this day of giving thanks with turkey, football and family and has also become a day during which many show appreciation for what they have by providing for those who have little. When we think of the things we are thankful for this year our thoughts will naturally go to our health, our family, our friends and any material wealth we have been fortunate enough to accumulate. Thanksgiving tends to be a holiday during which we turn inward and view the micro world in which we live, rather than the macro broader picture. Yet recent events make it clear that there is one thing that we should all be thankful for. It is the fact that we live in a country in which publicly voicing our disagreement with a government action or decision is not only approved of, but celebrated. The First Amendment to our Constitution is a gem beyond value, however, to abuse it is unforgivable.
While there are many who have found the strength of character and conviction to display their displeasure with the decisions of the Gand Jury in St. Louis County with words and peaceful actions, there are those who corrupted the intent of the First Amendment with fire and violence. By doing so, this group is diluting the message and damaging an important opportunity. It makes little difference on which side of this issue you stand, the death of a young man, white, brown or black is a tragedy. Whether you feel the police officer was justified in his actions or not, the result is a tragedy. More importantly, we are all aware that this event is not an isolated one, and occurs in every part of our country. I am not sitting here on this Thanksgiving day professing to know the solution to this national challenge. The issues are complex and engender strong passions on both sides. However, perhaps on this Thanksgiving day, in addition to the turkey, the football and family, we should turn our attention outward.
The responsibility for change does not rest in just a few hands. If there is going to be progress on these issues words must be articulated with clarity, and minds most be open to hearing those words on both sides. While the acts of civil disobedience taking place around the country are getting our attention, the time for education, political engagement and dispassionate conversation must come soon. The hard work isn’t starting a fire, it is putting it out. Anybody can start a fire, as has been proven these past nights. But putting out the fire and using those passions in a constructive way is much harder. We must see leadership on both sides come together to use those passions to identify the issues and seek solutions together. While this is a problem that plagues us nationally, the solutions are local.
We all are aware that these issues have a long and disturbing history. On this Thanksgiving day, we are thankful for many things, but most of all that we live in a country that has the freedom and courage to confront its problems. We can’t allow those who have chosen to express themselves by burning and looting to have the last word. We must agree to work together towards peaceful solutions so that next Thanksgiving we can give thanks for the progress we have made.