Bridging Divides with Thanksgiving


By Molly Connolly

The past few weeks have been a doozy- to put it lightly.

What I sense from all sides (of which there are certainly more than two) is that people are tired, anxious and perhaps now, after a few weeks have passed, are feeling complacent and powerless in what this election season has brought to the surface. We can’t hide behind our tribes any longer ... We’ve been exposed as a country at odds with itself and what seems to be so unsettling is that we chose to ignore what the “other” side was showing us, as if by a mirror -- the darkest parts of our selves.

And now, the holidays are upon us and the air has changed a bit. There is still conflict and confusion, but I’ve sensed it being enveloped by a bit of hope as our thoughts go to family and what truly matters to us in this time.

Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, given at the height of the Civil War in 1864, offers an eerily timely message. Despite the country's division, or perhaps because of it, President Lincoln wisely marked the last Thursday in November to give thanks for the aspiration of American Experiment -- and it's tenacity and fortitude to create unity and beauty from chaos and division:

And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.

We here at Clapham believe that culture is upstream of politics, but at times I think the most vital role artists play is to stand, fully planted in the middle of the rushing river that is our messy society, reaching out to both banks. To be in between the electorate and the political elite, between the left and right, between those with power and those without.

As an artist, I feel an obligation to interpret our fear and anger into something constructive. We are translators and messengers. I understand why, in the case of the “Hamilton” cast last week, they felt an obligation to take the stage and appeal to a higher power to show mercy when we are overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety, insecurity and the real fear that the country we love may some day not be a place we feel welcome. And I appreciate the space for dialogue Gov. Pence created through his response. The air changed a bit.

That’s also why I’m grateful for Tom Hank’s words on the occasion of his tribute from the Museum of Modern Art’s film benefit as he addressed the palpable angst within the film industry about the current political situation and added:

We are going to be all right because we constantly get to tell the world who we are. We constantly get to define ourselves as Americans. We do have the greatest country in the world. We move at a slow pace. We have the greatest country in the world because we are always moving towards a more perfect union.

That journey never ceases, it never stops. Sometimes, to quote a Bruce Springsteen song, it’s one step forward two steps back, but we still aggregately move forward. We who are a week into wondering what the hell just happened will continue to move forward. We have to choose to do so, but we will move forward because if we do not move forward. What is to be said of us?

So I encourage you, as you’re cleaning up Thanksgiving leftovers in the kitchen and conversation undoubtedly turns to politics to remember that we’ve been here before- and that does not belittle our current situation, but allows us to do that uniquely American thing of picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off and moving forward.

Except this time around, let’s lend a hand to those next to us as they get up as well, shall we?