Thursday, November 28, 2019

A Little Thanks for Thanksgiving

By Eric Segall

These days, it feels like being thankful can be hard. If you are like me, the political world is difficult to escape. I don’t pretend to remember well the burning cities of my 1960’s youth or the national angst over young men and women going off to fight the unjust and illegal Vietnam war, but America today feels more torn apart than at any other time during my lifetime. I know people whose friendships and even families have been casualties of our polarized discourse and national divisions. The base cruelty and rudeness of our President, I fear, is infecting not just his supporters but his antagonists too. As my friend Dr. Aaron Caroll says so often on Twitter, there does not seem to be a bottom.

Well, I need a day off. So here are a few hopefully not too trite thank you’s and optimistic thoughts that I thought I would share on our national day of Thanksgiving. Please forgive the personal nature of what follows.



Of course, family comes first, and I’m blessed to be surrounded by a wife, three daughters, two dogs, three guinea pigs, two birds, two siblings, their families, and my amazing 90 year old Father. I’ve written before on Thanksgiving how lucky I am to love and be loved by these wonderful people. But today I want to mention how grateful I am that at 90, my Dad can still read you under the table, play high level bridge, and literally play poker with the pros. If I’m half as capable at 90 as he is now, I’ll be truly thankful.

I am so lucky to have a number of truly close friends. I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately and decided that the best friends are those who, when I’m being too much me or too little me, they call me out for it, and then give me a huge hug. Honesty and compassion are the hallmarks of great friendships, and I am so thankful for mine.

I am thankful for my career. Being a law professor is such a privilege. We get to teach, mold, and influence wonderful young (and not so young) students, write about whatever topics fuel our interest, and, despite what you may have heard, the work leaves plenty of time for family and leisure. I am thankful for my job every day of my life-- a joy I never take for granted (except maybe when  I'm grading exams).

I want to specifically thank Pete Dominick, both my good friend, and radio show host and comedian extraordinare. More than a decade ago, he put me on the national airwaves on a regular basis, and that helped reshape the arc of my professional, non-scholarly career. I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity to share my expertise, opinions, and rants so broadly. Pete’s career recently changed, and his thousands of listeners and followers have been mourning the loss of his daily show. But Pete is resourceful, and I have no doubt he’ll come back strong. As I write this, I'm ten minutes away from doing an AP radio interview about Trump's carnage. I have Pete to thank for those opportunities.

I am thankful that as Americans we still have the right to speak freely and openly. I once knew a couple who had lived in Prague before the Russians left. They told me how speaking politics in a cafe could have gotten them arrested during those years. We as Americans don’t have to worry about that, and hopefully never will. And for the record, though I despise the Supreme Court’s undue interference with campaign finance laws, and though my views on free speech are more European than American, I am thankful that the Court errs on the freedom not repression side of difficult free speech issues.

Although it brings frustration at times, I’m thankful for social media, especially Twitter. I’ve learned from folks like Jonathan Adler, Ilya Somin, and Chris Green, among many others, laughed heartily “with” folks I’ve never met in person like Scott Shapiro, and I’m told at least some of my con law twitter squabbles have been educational for some (if not annoying to others). I will say that in the world of constitutional law academics, I do think Twitter is equalizing and democratizing in some important ways. But that’s a story for another day.

It may sound silly but I am thankful for art and culture such as Les Miserables for its heavenly score and messages of redemption, love, and kindness. I truly appreciate Sunday in the Park with George for its raw obsession with telling the truth about the difficulty of making art. And yes, sorry, but I’m grateful to Billy Joel for his ability to sing and write about love, loss, depression, joy, and American life (if you have never listened to Goodnight Saigon you should), and for giving me almost 50 years of entertainment. Lynne and I recently took our two youngest daughters to see him in New York, and I’m happy to say they appreciated it as much as their parents.

If you are in your 50’s or 60’s (I’m 61), maybe you can relate to my gratitude for my generally reasonable health. I have close friends with Parkinson’s, ALS, and cancer. Their attitudes and courage
amaze me every single day.

Finally, I’m grateful to a Mike who lets me use the blog that carries his name not only to rant about the Court that isn’t a court and the Originalism that is mostly about faith, but at times life, sports, and topics unrelated to law at all.

Thanks Mike, and happy Thanksgiving to one and all.