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Commentary: Can '51-48 America' Come Together For the Holidays?

By Chris Tucker, KERA 90.1 commentator

Dallas, TX –

We just finished one of the most bitter and divisive national elections in history. The contest split towns, neighborhoods, and even families right down the middle.

And now, before we've even scraped off the bumper stickers, here come Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas. As the song says, it's time for those who are dear to us to gather near to us once more.

And that's exactly what I'm worried about.

Among the relatives I'll celebrate with this year, I can think of at least eight who voted for John Kerry. Another eight, possibly nine, went for President Bush.

So what do we do? Blue tablecloths on one table, red on the other, Naderites out in the garage? Color-coded gift wrap, anyone?

Will the 51-48 Nation spend the holiday season bickering and re-fighting the last war? Unless we're careful, the quarrelsome spirits of Michael Moore, Dick Cheney, Whoopi Goldberg, Theresa Heinz-Kerry, and Tom DeLay will haunt our tables, turning innocent remarks like "Please pass the turkey" into homemade attack ads, like "How 'bout that turkey in the White House?"

But don't despair. We can save the holidays from drowning in an acrid gravy of recriminations. We just need a little help from the Dallas Cowboys, Charles Dickens, and Jimmy Stewart.

Of course, America's Team always plays a vital role on Thanksgiving. For decades their annual appearances have thrilled us, diverted us, or at least provided a great excuse for postprandial couch-napping. While the Cowboys played, we didn't have to listen to Cousin Edna's hyena laugh and Uncle Lou bragging about his latest coup in the stock market.

This year, we need the Cowboys more than ever to keep our minds - and mouths - off politics. So let's hope it's a close game. It's not whether they win or lose on Thanksgiving; it's whether they keep as many people as possible glued to the set as long as possible. If the battered 'Boys can arrange a 17-17 tie with a minute to play, so much the better.

Who knows? If the football gods vote for tranquility that day, maybe we'll even see an overtime. Make that a triple overtime.

An early blowout, on the other hand, will leave millions with little to do but argue over their pie and coffee. Holiday exit polls could show that 62 percent of respondents will never again send pictures of the grandchildren, while some 55 percent vow to rewrite their wills before New Years' Day.

To make love, not war, prevail at other holiday gatherings, I suggest liberal doses of the two greatest yuletide movies, "A Christmas Carol" and "It's A Wonderful Life." While not overtly political, both films carry lessons we can really use right now.

Consider Ebenezer Scrooge. Armed with dogmatic certainty about his own beliefs and a sneering contempt for his fellow citizens, Mr. Scrooge could be an elitist party hack or a taunting talk-show demagogue. He learns that it's never too late for any of us - Democrat, Republican, Independent - to acquire some humility and start down a better road.

As for "It's A Wonderful Life," you just can't watch this movie and believe that the 50 million Americans who voted for The Other Guy are dumb, malevolent, oppressive ogres. George Bailey discovers that every person matters supremely; every life is a link in a chain, even if we don't always see how we're joined together.

"Wonderful Life" is the essential feel-good movie, and we could all use some good feeling right now - starting, I hope, with a long, close Cowboys game on Thanksgiving Day. Let the healing begin.

 

Chris Tucker is a Dallas writer and a former editor of D Magazine. He's been watching politics since Richard Nixon vowed to bring us together. If you have opinions or rebuttals about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338 or email us.