the_first_thanksgiving_cph-3g04961By Forest Riggs

Let us all give thanks

The election is over! After many long months of mud-slinging, vitriol-infused speeches and ideologies that shock the very core of most folks’ understanding of democracy and how it is supposed to work, a new president has been elected by a majority vote. As this column is being written five days before the Election Day, at this point I am unsure as to how it came out.

One thing I am sure of, no matter who won, America must heal from this horrible election year’s societal destruction and get back to doing what we do best: moving forward in a positive and cohesive manner. I feel pretty correct in saying that most all of gay Galveston supports Mrs. Clinton for a multitude of reason that are near and dear to the LGBT communities around the country: same-sex marriage, SCOTUS judge nominations, health care, education and the economy. The two major presidential candidates could not be farther apart in their ideas and future plans regarding these and other issues.

During this election process (which, by the way, takes entirely too long in our country), Americans have essentially stepped into another quagmire—a Civil War, of sorts; it’s not the North against the South, but Democrat against Republican. I have seen friendships erode, faiths questioned, basic human rights challenged, political correctness used to the point of becoming sickening, actions (on both sides) that heretofore would have been criminal and perhaps inhumane, simply over looked or accepted as the new norm for America. The news media, social media and other forms of communication have swelled the “ battle” into monumental proportions. No one has remained unaffected in this 2016 election.

It’s true, there were some major issues at stake with this election and the person that was elected by a majority vote now faces huge obstacles and hurdles if they are to effectively govern these non-united United States. We have now, after a great battle, swum into the murky waters of yet another Reconstruction.

Can it happen and will it be successful is the great question of next several years. So much anger, hatred, bigotry, divisiveness and downright meanness has been birthed, re-birthed and spread that our country is in a very pivotal situation. Perhaps, in the past, where we have only placed Band-Aids over deep and old wounds, the scabs have been picked off and the festering carbuncles of society’s ills are once again open and oozing their poison. We see these, they are real; now must act to finally heal these ills. This election year has shown us that as great as we think we are, there is still great work to be done and a great deal of it in areas of basic human rights.

LGBT communities across the continent have long been aware of the disparities and disenfranchisement that is found throughout these United States, and the world. The LGBT communities and their allies have long advocated for unity, acceptance, equal rights and fairness to be the common practice of our Democratic nation rather than anger, hatred and division. We have worked hard, on all levels, toward this common goal and have witnessed changes both great and small. Just like within the political arena of the United States, within the LGBT communities there exists some polarization and differences in ideology, tactics, delivery and representation. The conduit, or glue, is the desire to better our society and improve the quality of life for all. Many tracks lead to the top of the mountain; the important thing is to get there.

Sadly, with the aid of media, this recent election process complete with failed debates, missed opportunities, denials and constant deflections focused more on the personalities of those involved, rather than the issues. Folks watching the debates, hoping to hear candidates expound on the their plans for the future regarding great issues of concern, were treated instead to a battle between two people simply trying to outshine the other; of course, people took sides. He “ won” or she “ won,” mostly based on just how the candidate came across as a person. Oh, there was some occasional talk around a real issue, but it never evolved into to real “ how to” answers and ideas for problem solving.

Well, the deed is done. The votes have been cast and a president has been elected. Now what do we do? It is critical at this point that we come together as Americans, support our elected leader, show solidarity to the now doubting world and work hard to move forward in a positive direction. Oh, there will be sh*t, you can bank on it: hearings, challenges, investigations, more bi-partisan bickering and roadblocks in Congress based on who won, rather than what is best for our country. All of this only serves to slow the process of working toward common goals that we all have and feel are important for America.

We have moved many years past that original Thanksgiving when our ancestors sat down, united and gave thanks for all they had achieved and accomplished. Faced with the most difficult circumstances and challenges imaginable, they still managed to come together and with feelings of gratefulness and pride, share their meal and rejoice

This is what we must do now. Put aside differences, barriers, anger-fed ideologies and come together with respect and acknowledgement for our accomplishments and unite in our plan to go forward, healing the wounds in our Nation. The meal can be symbolic, however the rejoicing must take place and from it, dreams and wishes become reality.

Thanksgiving is a very special holiday and one that enables people to make memories and come together, sharing and uniting, not dividing and battling. This is the message of the holiday that we must each remember every year, but especially this year. LGBT folks love to gather on this day and share food, drink and love. We have done it forever and must continue to do it—we remain strongest when we are united in our common goals.

Let’s get back to celebrating what is good and makes us strong. Happy Thanksgiving.

A resident of Galveston where he can be found wasting bait and searching for the meaning of life, Forest Riggs recently completed a collection of short stories about his beloved island and is working on a novel.