Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum, so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.
“…Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world? In our present differences is either party without faith of being in the right? …
While the people retain their virtue and vigilance, no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government in the short space of four years…
We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature….”
– Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address 1861
Travels with my parents on summer vacations, spending endless hours in the car to get from one destination to another, brought the maps in Geography class to life for me, and taught me America is a big country.
I also had the great good fortune to do some traveling as a college kid – yes, the usual 1960s back-packing through Europe – but also a bit of the Middle East, Africa and South America, which certainly taught me that the “American way of life” isn’t the only good life. I learned that, as different and fascinating as other people and places are, we are all members of the human race, and much more alike than we are different. I also learned that while America is big, it’s not the biggest country in the world, and we are not the best at everything.
I love my country very deeply, but not because it’s been rich and powerful – I know too much about the cost that’s been paid for that wealth and power by generations of ‘ordinary’ Americans, the people who work for a paycheck and the farmers who grow our food. Cries to “make America great again” make me shudder – all the people who voted to bring back the past are about to find out it never was what they’ve believed.
What I love is the Big Idea of America – the country we’ve aspired to become but have never reached – the one where everybody really does get a fair shake, where people get along with their neighbors and learn from each other, sharing food and music and ideas.
I detest that the Republican Party is gouging our wounds, feeding hatred and fear, pitting people against each other, distracting us from what needs to be done by sending in the clowns and waving battle flags from the civil war that nearly destroyed us over 150 years ago.
And yet, in the midst of all the hatred and fear and despair, in every town and city across America, somewhere every week of every year, there are local celebrations of the best America has to offer; of ethnic heritage and regional crafts; people show up to volunteer and money gets raised to help others — not on a national scale, but in neighborhoods and communities.
Take a look at just some of what’s happening this week alone, December 5 to December 11:
- Dipped in Tubac Fest: The Art and History of Chocolate — Tubac AZ
- Jersey City Bluegrass Jam — Hoboken NJ
- Temple Christmas Tree Lighting and Parade — Temple TX
- Midwest Independent Film Festival — Chicago IL
- Winternational Embassy Showcase (foreign embassies show off their cultures) — Washington DC
- Placentia Tamale Festival & Las Posadas — Placentia CA
- Christmas at the Zoo — Indianapolis IN
- Greensboro Grooves (a recurring local music showcase) — Greensboro NC
- Halifax Humane Society Fur Ball — Daytona Beach FL
- New York Festival of Song — Brooklyn NY
- PhotoNOLA (photography festival) — New Orleans LA
- Thorton Park District 2nd Tuesday Wine and Art Walk — Orlando FL
- Woodstock Wassail Weekend — Woodstock VT
- Harbor House Community Holiday Celebration — Southwest Harbor, ME
- Gilbert Raparian After Dark — Gilbert AZ
- Artworks Ink and Drink — Trenton NJ
- Tomball German Christmas Market — Tomball TX
- Vail Snow Daze — Vail CO
- Kermit Ruffins Birthday Bash — New Orleans LA
- Ugly Sweater Run — Boston MA
- Pueblo Grande Indian Market — Phoenix AZ
- DeFremery Crab Feed — Oakland CA
- Hillwood Russian Winter Festival — Washington DC
- The Holly Dickens Festival — Holly MI
Of course, there are many more events because this is the kick-off week for the December holiday madness. But civic groups and heritage societies; libraries and museums; local farmers, brewers and vintners; artists, writers, musicians and artisans; houses of worship, non-profits, activist groups and local emergency services all put on events year-round. There have been a few violent incidents at these events over the years, but they are comparatively rare. We are still shocked when it happens.
Mostly, people show up to have a good time, or to raise money for a good cause, like making sure that children of families in financial need get toys and their families have enough to eat, just a small share of the national holiday cheer.
To me, these are celebrations of who we are, and even more than that, of ‘the better angels’ we could be.