A Thanksgiving Prayer

By Eric Segall

Thanksgiving 2016 is not Thanksgiving as usual for my family or my country. On a personal note, my mother’s birthday was November 22, and my parents’ wedding anniversary November 25. Since my mother passed away last December, this will be the first Thanksgiving celebration in over twenty-five years with one Segall missing from the holiday table. 

Instead of feeling thankful this week, I wake up every morning thinking about my mom, the space she left behind, and also how President-Elect Trump came to be and what our future holds. I am more anxious this week than any Thanksgiving I can remember.

I suspect that I am not alone in my fear for the next few Thanksgivings. I fear the President-Elect will try to implement his hateful ideas about Muslim registries, a southern border wall, and support for police aggression and misconduct. I fear that his Administration will ignore climate change and release American businesses from most environmental regulation which may yield short-term profits in exchange for long term disaster.

I worry about the Supreme Court which, with just two new Justices, could turn strongly to the right until I am in my grave (I am 58). If that occurs, the Court will once again be the best friend of the far right, insensitive to the civil rights of minorities and the accused and overly sympathetic to massive corporations and majority religions (Justice Alito’s speech at the Federalist Society last week was frightening in this regard). It has happened before (1900-1936), and it is likely to happen again. I hope Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kennedy (and yes the rest of the younger Justices too) have at least four happy Thanksgivings to come.

Mostly though, I fear for this country’s young women (I have three daughters). Our President-elect’s sexually aggressive attitude towards women could negatively impact our son’s attitudes in so many different and terrible ways and for longer than his Administration lasts. The owner of beauty pageants (how do they even still exist?) who blamed Megan Kelly’s hard questions on her cycle, called Rosie a fat pig, and stated proudly his own ability to grab women’s private parts, is now our Role-Model in Chief. Given these attitudes, will his Civil Rights Department continue the important work under Title IX which has helped so many women and girls develop more positive identities and will his Administration open its highest positions to women? I wouldn’t think so.

So with both personal loss over the passing of my mom, and deep fear over the future of our country, I think hard about what I have to be thankful for, and mercifully the answer is a lot (and I hope this is true for you too). I love my wife and I am loved by her. My three children and my brother’s three children are all amazing in their own unique ways full of spirit, love of life, and resilience. I am grateful for my job, which allows me to see new generations of lawyers and leaders come and go and gives me varied platforms to pontificate about law, loss and joy. And, I see a country that is still free, where people have the right to publicly complain if their free elections result in leaders they strongly oppose and policies they fear.

But, for the first time in my life, on this Thanksgiving Day, 2016, I feel the need to say a prayer. I pray that our President-Elect will realize his views on women need to change and that even symbolic sexist gestures by the President of the United States can cause real damage. I pray that he will see that Muslims aren’t the problem but that it is the fringe elements of Islam, just like it is the fringe elements of white Christianity, that pose the greatest danger. I pray that he gives some of his top Cabinet positions to moderates who will speak the truth to him even when he doesn’t want to hear it. I pray he listens seriously to scientists warning that our changing climate presents our biggest risk. Mostly, I pray that the largeness of the office, the awesome responsibilities it entails, and the enormity of his job convince him that humility and open-mindedness are essential elements of leadership, and that knowing what you don’t know is as or more important than acting on what you do know. Hard-nosed quick decision-making based on intuition rather than data may garner excellent ratings but it does not make for good government.

Am I optimistic? Not really. But for the sake of my children, and their children, on this day of Thanksgiving, I am going to be thankful, and I will dedicate myself to doing whatever I can to make my family safe, secure, and happy and this country a place that can live up to its ideals of liberty, equality and justice... for all. I hope that is a prayer everyone can join, not just for today but for the rest of our Thanksgivings as well.