Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanks on Thanksgiving

The Wednesday after election day, I woke up to an email announcing that an article I submitted -- my first ever political theory piece -- had gotten a "revise and resubmit" request.

It was that kind of year: Decent, except for the part where America seems on the brink of immolating itself. It was tough to even email my graduate advisors with the "good" news that day: "So, I know that we're all reeling from America electing a proto-fascist, but a paper I wrote three months ago was officially not-rejected (yet)!"

I'm thankful, nonetheless, for the parts of my year which were very good. On a professional level, my writing got more attention. I gave my first invited talk, and developed great new contacts with various elements of the institutional Jewish community. Both the key figures I wanted to serve on my dissertation committee agreed to do so.

On a personal level, I'm also thankful for having an incredible family (with whom I'm currently enjoying a "non-traditional" Las Vegas Thanksgiving), an amazing girlfriend who has stolen the show at both(!) of her two jobs, and great friends both in Berkeley and around the country.

Finally, I'm thankful because I'm well aware of how lucky I am. I'm financially secure. I'm ensconced at an incredible university. I'm no DC power broker, but I "know-people-who-know-people". While things aren't the best for people like me at Berkeley, they're by no means the worst. Knowing people -- brilliant scholars and great human beings -- who are, for example, undocumented keeps things in perspective. And -- keeping on the selfish theme -- my life is better because they're in my life. So I'm thankful for that too.

The next few years could go all manner of different ways. They could just be generically bad, in the same way that having a conservative President tends to be usually be pretty bad. They could be truly appalling, in the same way that the grotesque erosion of basic liberal and democratic norms -- far beyond the normal liberal/conservative divide -- we've witnessed over the past year tends to yield appalling results.

But I'm thankful that -- for the moment, at least -- I still have the wherewithal and the motivation to keep speaking out for what I believe in, and I deeply, deeply believe in both liberalism and democracy. I hope you still do too. And in seeking to keep that spark of liberty and self-governance alive, everybody does their part in their own way. Some march. Some write letters. Some organize. I write.

We all have our part to do. Whether we elect to do it or not is a choice we make every day. But I'll try to keep making a better choice today than I made yesterday, and I hope you will try to do so too. It's never too late to be a little kinder, a little more empathic, a little more responsible, a little more welcoming. And it's never too late to be a little less fearful, a little less close-minded, a little less parochial, a little less callous, a little less uncharitable. It's never too late for any of that.

But it's nice to do it with company.

Because while we all should, individually, try to make better choices today no matter what our fellows do; it will always be apparent that Americans are stronger together.

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