So the imaginary "war against Christmas" was not enough for them. Donald Trump and Fox News now accuse progressives of waging war against Thanksgiving, based on … well, nothing. But do Trump and his panda of intolerant even understand what Thanksgiving is about? If they did, they would hate this party, one of the most American.
After all, the pilgrims were refugees fleeing the persecution of the English monarchy, which at that time was still an autocratic regime. They were, in other words, exactly the kind of people that Trump and company want to ban entry.
Moreover, the traditional portrait of the first Thanksgiving is a time of racial tolerance and multiculturalism: European immigrants sharing a feast with Native Americans. That moment did not last: a good part of the native population of New England was eliminated over the following decades. And it is very possible that this outcome was inevitable. But we continue to celebrate the story of a friendly encounter between races and cultures.
Thanksgiving became an official holiday thanks to a proclamation signed in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln. He signed it a few months after initiating the Emancipation Proclamation and only a few weeks before delivering the Gettysburg speech, in which he declared that the United States is a nation dedicated to the idea that all men were born equal. So the Thanksgiving we now celebrate also commemorates the fight against slavery.
It is reassuring to know that, except the intolerant, the rest of the country seems committed to an open society
Finally, Thanksgiving is entirely non-denominational. Lincoln's proclamation thanked the Almighty God, but he was vague about the nature of the Almighty. There is nothing at the party that reserves it to the faithful of a particular religion, or in fact, to an official religion, and is open to all cultures. The New York Times recently reported on the growing popularity of Thanksgiving turkey prepared in the style of Chinese roast duck; nothing more faithful to the spirit of the party.
Thanksgiving is, in short, a truly American holiday. Not only is it specific to our country, but it is also a celebration of the values that in fact make the United States great: openness to people with different looks and ways of acting, religious tolerance, sympathy towards the persecuted, belief In human equality.
True, all too often we only honor these nozzle values; In the history of the country there have been many dark chapters. But we have always managed to get out of the darkness. Sometimes that exit has taken us many generations; The Jim Crow era in the South lasted almost a century, and not even today has completely disappeared. Even so, again and again, from abolitionists to the civil rights movement, through women's suffrage and LGBTI rights, the ideals of the United States have finally prevailed, and we have returned to the fundamental values of our nation. .
We are now going through one of those dark chapters. Trump and company are, without a doubt, white nationalists whose values are much more similar to those of European blood and land authoritarians than to the American tradition. And the entire Republican Party seems willing to support Trump, no matter how much he betrays not only American values but also American interests.
Moreover, there is no guarantee that we will leave this dark chapter as the nation we were. It is true that Trump is an unusually unpopular president; but its approval rate, which is around 40% or a little more, is in any case higher than that recorded by Viktor Orban while dismantling Hungarian democracy. And Trump, like European white nationalists, does his best to remove the barriers that were supposed to limit the abuse of power, while delegitimizing any opposition.
But, although an alarming number of Americans seem satisfied with this authoritarian program and this acceptance of intolerance, it reassures that the rest of the country seems committed to an open society.
Trump's efforts to spread fear of dark-skinned people seem to have turned against him: the popular belief that immigrants make a positive contribution to the United States has been at the highest point for decades.
Likewise, although Trump may have as many supporters as the increasingly numerous foreign autocrats, he faces much more determined resistance. Opposition to Fidesz in Hungary or to the Law and Justice Party in Poland seems demoralized and disorganized from the beginning; the opposition to Trump has been, altogether, lively and cohesive. And this is not due only to personalities; As impressive as Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff are, both the Democratic victory in the midterm elections and the effectiveness of the impeachment process ultimately reflect the determination with which many ordinary Americans uphold our core values.
That said, we might well lose everything. But it was also like that when Lincoln turned Thanksgiving into a national holiday. While he celebrated the virtues of the United States, the country was still in the abyss of civil war, and despite Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the victory of the Union was far from guaranteed. The point is that Thanksgiving is not the celebration of a national triumph; It is the celebration of the best angels of American nature. That's why it's a party that true patriots, who believe in the foundational values of our nation, should love, and that people like Trump and his followers should hate.
Paul Krugman is Nobel Prize in Economics
© The New York Times, 2019
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