Michael's Essay — Lament for a nation
Thanksgiving Day morning, U.S. style, broke sunny and windless over the towns and villages and Green Mountains of southern Vermont.
In the village of Weston, population 566, everything was shut and shuttered, including the Weston Marketplace convenience store.
Usually at seven in the morning, the Marketplace is jammed by gruff men in plaid flannel shirts and hunting caps, drinking Green Mountain blend coffee and talking about the unfolding day.
Thanksgiving is the most important date in the country's festive calendar, much more vigorous and celebratory than our anemic effort in October.
It is especially critical for car salesmen, appliance dealerships, electronics and hardware stores, every kind of outlet in every kind of outlet mall and people who will sell you a once-in-a-lifetime vacation package.
But with great respect to those ancients, I have to wonder what, in 2017, Americans have to be thankful for.
Every year since 1961, the Wall Street Journal has published a Thanksgiving Day editorial glorying in the greatness of the United States.
It reads in part: "For all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men without benefit of kings and dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and mystery of the world."
Not a whole lot of Americans would agree with that sentiment this year.
The country seems in great disrepair. Divisions, which have always torn at the national fabric, now appear deeper and wider than ever.
Public discourse on great issues of the day has devolved into a carnival of name-calling.
Adversarial politics has become hate politics. It is now not enough to disagree with an opponent. Now it is necessary to demonize and despise your opponent.
Some 45 per cent of Republicans think Democrats are a threat to the nation's well-being, while a majority of Democrats say Republicans make them feel unsafe.
The country is run by an administration at war with its people and a remote, unheeding government which pays more attention to the privileged and the powerful than to ordinary Americans.
None of the usual compass headings seem to work. Alabama, one of the most backward states in the union, is prepared to send an accused child molester to the Senate at the very time examples of sexual assault flood the national consciousness.
And the admitted sexual predator in the Oval Office validates the candidacy.
And no wonder. They are living under the most unpopular president in living memory. He has broken every presidential norm and tradition and, when not being vilified, is being laughed at.
His foreign policy, crafted by aliens, has left American allies bewildered and frustrated and its enemies gleeful.
Legislative accomplishments by the Chief Executive after more than 300 days in office are negligible.
As he pilots a tax reform measure, which economists say will explode the deficit while continuing to enhance the wealthy with corporate tax cuts which are permanent and middle class cuts which are temporary, many of his supporters are living pay cheque to pay cheque.
Americans are, by temperament, the greatest myth makers and myth believers since the ancient Greeks.
Their president's success is built on a foundation of myths. Many Americans resolutely believe that he speaks for the voiceless, that he understands the inner workings of government, that he became wealthy through hard work and that he is an enemy of the Eastern elites.
He still has his base, which is unrepentant. It asks only three things of his government — the wall, a ban on Muslim immigration and the repeal of Roe v. Wade.
The Civil War of course, and those of us who covered the Sixties remember the riots, the assassinations, the burning cities and the hopeless war in Vietnam.
But there is something different this time. A quality of meanness coupled with a gnawing sense of impending catastrophe.
Americans are in a wretched mood, anxious, afraid of what the future might hold, concerned that steady resilience, which has saved them through wars and depressions and natural disasters, may not work as well this time.
As the novelist Kurt Vonnegut put it, "The winners are at war with the losers. The prospects for peace are awful."
Thanksgiving in the village came and went, ATMs spit out cash for Black Friday, people watched football games, ate leftover turkey and pumpkin pie.
The next morning at seven, the Marketplace was again filled with tall, rangy men drinking strong coffee.
Somebody mentioned there might be a storm over the weekend.
Click 'listen' above to hear Michael's essay.