Thanksgiving. If you’re one of the lucky families in Maine, your son or daughter who has been serving in a branch of the armed forces may be sitting across from you and smiling as they pass the sweet potatoes. God bless that sight. Breathe in that moment; fill your lungs and your heart with it; and whisper it in the saying of grace.

If you’re equally blessed, you may be sitting across from a son or daughter home from college with heads full of social and political ideas. Your son’s ideas may mirror yours. Your daughter’s? Well, maybe they’re a bit scary, a tad AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). That’s healthy.

That’s the spirit of Thanksgivings past. Once your grandparents argued about Roosevelt and the Depression, and the beat goes on.

Which brings to mind a Thanksgiving in New York, when a friend’s young son asked his grandfather the eternal question about World War II. “What did you do in the war, Grandpa?”

It may come to pass for you one day, when your children, your grandchildren will ask that question about this dark time in America’s political history. “What did you do in 2020, Grandpa, when you went to vote?”

But leaving that aside for now, I want to use my precious space this morning to share with you my list of thanks this Thanksgiving.

This year, I am, as I always have been, thankful to the great American free press, and that includes the newspapers of Maine and the company that employs me.

I am thankful to be able to read all the papers I choose to, words from all sides in the game. But especially the Washington Post, the group that courageously printed the Pentagon Papers and went on to bring down Richard Nixon. Today, Robert Costa and Dana Priest supplant Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. And the beat goes on.

I download the New York Times that includes the works of Jodi Kantor, Michelle Goldberg and Michael Schmidt and Jennifer Rubin who have stepped into the footsteps of Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevareid and Walter Cronkite.

Here at home, I value the work of our own Bill Nemitz, whose eagle eye watches over the political and social chicanery on the home front.

But then, as I sit at my Thanksgiving table, lowering my head to say the grace of thanks this year, I am afraid to close my eyes, even in prayer, because my thanks is tainted by guilt and remorse.

How do I give thanks without seeing the children sitting among their suffering and lonely cellmates this holiday — and especially Christmas Eve — in a steel cage at the bottom of America, wondering which arroyo their mother is sleeping in that night?

These children, who by the decree of the maladroit maître d’ of Mar-a-Lago, have been imprisoned in the deserts of the land of the free.

How, in the darkness of this sacred moment, do I avoid seeing an African-American citizen being dragged out of his car on a snowy night in Chicago, Memphis or St. Louis, and shoved across the car’s hood, maybe even being beaten, while trying to answer questions from an unhappy racist, white cop?

I can be thankful that there are thousands of good, white cops, those underpaid and beleaguered servants of the law, such as my nephew and niece, who have to cruise the icy streets on Christmas Eve and take pains to deliver equal justice.

As a veteran, I am very thankful this year that I’m not a decorated Army combat soldier sitting at Thanksgiving dinner with his family, head bowed in prayer for the Kurdish teammates he was forced — by a decree from the Keeper of the Republican Senate — to leave behind to be slaughtered.

Again, my thanks are spotted with guilt that I’m not one of the many decorated combat soldiers, men or women, who are also one of the innocents of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, just home from Afghanistan, ready to go to college on the GI Bill, but instead awaiting being sent back to sell oranges on the highway in San Pedro in Honduras.

This year, even though I don’t share the same prayers, I will close my eyes and sit beside the elderly Jew and his family, a survivor of the Holocaust who still remembers the firing squads at Dachau, while his great-grandson scans the pews nearby for strangers.

This Thanksgiving, antisemitism, which is once again raising its rotting face in Europe and Britain along with the ugliness of white nationalism, seems to be ignored by the grey-suited praetorian guard who stand by their emperor while the city burns. What goes around comes around, someone once said. Richard Nixon, I believe.

God bless you. Try to have a happy Thanksgiving.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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