Longtime readers of this column may remember something I shared last Thanksgiving. Just before dinner each night, our small family of three — the “Belovable One,” the “Little Dude” and me — hold hands while each of us, in turn, shares what we’re grateful for that day. That small tradition helps to remind us to complain less and be thankful more.

Here are the things that I’m celebrating this Thanksgiving.

I’m grateful for our good health and for the fact that, while we work hard to stay ahead of the bills, we have some wants but few needs. I’m grateful for the music and films and art and history that have lodged themselves in my heart and mind, and for all the memories they are attached to. And for Maine humorists and people like Jon Stewart — who is greatly missed in our household — who help us to see both the joyfulness and the irony in this world.

I’m grateful for a lifetime of friends, many of whom have moved on but not before leaving some part of themselves behind to help me become a better person. I’m celebrating the people of Maine who care about this state, its communities and others who live here. More than 200 of them gathered last Friday at the Envision Maine Summit to share their ideas and hopes for a brighter future.

Many more will spread out across the state today to extend their hands to others who deserve our help. Throughout the year, others will devote their time and energy to the next generation of kids coming through our schools, to sustaining and nurturing their communities and protecting the astonishing beauty of Maine.

I’m grateful for the people who first created the freedoms that we too often take for granted: To express ourselves as we wish, to embrace whatever religion we believe in, to gather together without fear and to push for changes that are making America a better place.

We are not yet a “perfect union,” but the river of history continues to carry us in the right direction.

I’m grateful that 240 years ago, people left their warm homes, families, businesses and farms to endure eight long years of struggle against the world’s greatest power, so that we could enjoy those freedoms. This week, I’m particularly grateful for what they did after that war, which was to create a lasting constitution that protects our freedoms by limiting the power of demagogues and dictators who would destroy the country to gain power or wealth.

The Constitution is regularly invoked for political benefit by people who seem too willing to ignore it when it becomes inconvenient. We saw that recently when Donald Trump argued that we should padlock Muslim churches and create a national database of believers. Earlier, he proposed that we expel millions of Mexicans from the country, including people of Mexican descent who were born in America.

Both ideas directly violate the Constitution, which protects weak minorities from the tyranny of the majority.

Trump was asked whether his ideas for persecuting people on the basis of their race, ethnic background or religion aren’t somehow more reminiscent of Nazi Germany than 21st century America. He couldn’t answer. But anyone who understands and respects the essential purpose of our Constitution, and who has invested even a little time in understanding how the Nazis came to power, would have no problem answering that question. The answer is yes.

Germany’s Nazis came to power by stoking anger and divisions, through skillful exploitation of ancient racial and religious prejudices and by promising to make their country “great again.” Initially, they were little more than an amusing and irrelevant sideshow. Then, in the blink of an eye, they had seized power, crushed all opposition and built the most dangerous terrorist state the modern world has known.

All of that was possible because people succumbed to their worst instincts in order to protect the racial “purity” of their country. They placed too little value on the violation of basic democratic principles and ideals. Then they turned their backs while millions were first “listed,” then attacked and rounded up, and finally murdered.

When we join hands at dinner tonight, I’ll be most grateful for the many Americans who have stood up this week — including Republicans and Democrats — to say that Trump’s ideas are a dangerous and repugnant assault on American values and human decency.

The Constitution cannot speak in its own defense. Nor can refugees fleeing unimaginable violence. That is something the rest of us, as citizens of this country, need to do.

Alan Caron, a Waterville native, is the owner of Caron Communications, which is based in Freeport. Email at [email protected]

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