WOODY BASSETT: Fall reminders suggest hope for divided nation

Enveloped this fall by an abundance of magnificent colors gracing the trees, our eyes danced across the landscape as the leaves put on a show for us. Amidst the beauty of it all, our hearts were captured as we said to ourselves and each other what a blessing it is to live in a place where nature's grandeur is so often on display. Perhaps it was another reminder from God why we love it here and more proof that it's the simple things that sustain the human condition and bring us our greatest joy.

This fall's prolonged splendor was the best we've enjoyed in Northwest Arkansas in years and it couldn't have come at a better time. It so happened the trees peaked during the run up to Election Day, offering us serenity and a soothing respite from the unbridled babble, disrespect and incivility so prevalent now in American politics and in our public discourse. Regardless of our own beliefs or who we voted for, the glorious trees allowed us to momentarily forget about the national discord and gave us something we could enjoy and marvel at together.

The leaves have now faded, the election is over and it's Thanksgiving Day, a time to gather with family and friends and to be especially thankful for all the people who are important to us and give true meaning to our lives. It's also a day to quietly cast aside the political and cultural tribalization afflicting the country, remembering instead that no matter what "side" we are on, each of us remains proud to be an American and grateful to live in a nation like ours where there's so much more that's right than wrong. And it's a day to reflect on what brings us together as a country and to remember to still see the good in each other, regardless of our passionate disagreements on political issues.

In a country as big as ours and so deeply polarized, the temptation is to feel helpless to cure the division, but we can't afford to surrender to it. Our nation's current "civil war" isn't between opposing armies; it's a conflict being fought on many fronts with words instead of bullets. Everything is political now. Dysfunction reigns. Dishonesty and hypocrisy suffer no penalty. Pragmatic compromise is seemingly beyond reach. No one is winning--all of us are losing.

We must find a path to a better place if we want America to thrive and to forever remain as the world's greatest hope. So on Thanksgiving 2018 we should strive to keep the faith that a time will come when enough of us will find a way to move beyond the bitter divisions plaguing us to again discover the common ground right in front of us. It won't be easy to secure a truce and the journey will be long, but it's one we must take and finish.

The words of Abraham Lincoln are always instructional. With the country on the brink of a real and bloody Civil War, President Lincoln delivered these words in his First Inaugural Address in 1861: "We are not enemies, but friends. 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 battlefield 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."

Americans today have not forgotten their history nor have we forgotten who we are as a country. We know we've been through far more difficult and contentious times in the past and, despite our broken politics, most Americans live their everyday lives embracing the better angels of their nature. We see daily countless acts of friendship, kindness and generosity from one person to another. We're still good to each other when and where it counts the most.

It was 55 years ago today that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Thanksgiving that year came six days later. It was a profoundly sad and painful time for the nation, making the angst and heartbreak about where the country is today in our public affairs pale in comparison to that of late November 1963. Kennedy's words from long ago, just as Lincoln's, still apply today, notably these: "Let us not seek the Republican answer, or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future."

It will be a daunting challenge to heal the country's soul but we have to try, because we're the only ones who can fix it.

Commentary on 11/22/2018

Upcoming Events