Codger Column: Regroup, reset, resist

Courtesy art


Codger has always loved Thanksgiving, the most comforting of holidays, spiritual without being commercially religious, a celebration of the basics — family, friends and food. Codger, Crone and Cur will enjoy 16 at the table, from the Island and the city and the West Coast, from the ages of 4 to 81, some of them stashed in two extra houses.

No doubt over the weeklong festivities, there will be talk about the future, including the dread and despair this month has brought, and Codger, not the oldest but surely feeling the most patriarchal, will feel compelled to moderate, pontificate and offer hope.

He will probably quote frequently from his father, the Original Codger, who died a dozen years ago at 100, moderating, pontificating and offering hope to the very end, often at his own Thanksgivings. He frequently said, as good times rolled or crisis loomed, that “nothing is ever as good or bad as your imagination can make it.”

After so many ups and downs in his life, the Original Codger believed in cautious optimism, one day at a time. He lived through the Great Depression, two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, Iraq.

As a teacher, he watched his profession ravaged by McCarthyism. His own father died in the flu epidemic of 1918. His wife, a grandchild and all his friends died before he did.

His most consistent values, which he tried to pass on, were skepticism and social justice. He learned to doubt when he was 8 years old, in 1912, when he heard the SOS calls from the Titanic on his brother’s crystal radio set. If the unsinkable Titanic could go down, he decided, how could you ever again put blind faith in the officials who misspoke with such authority?

He worked mostly at schools in poor, minority neighborhoods where he dealt with inequality, racism, sexism. He came to believe that all people had the responsibility to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, but it was the responsibility of a just society to be sure everyone began with a pair of boots.

Codger still misses the Original Codger and tries to channel him, especially in times as dangerous as these. He was a pragmatic man, and in retirement he and Codger’s mother became involved in small town politics and worked for groups that aided the elderly, immigrants and minorities. They lobbied politicians, wrote letters to the editor, started a newsletter, demonstrated. They often conceded that they were preaching to the choir, but thought it essential to keep the choir brave.

Codger thinks the OC would agree that this Thanksgiving is a time to regroup, reset and resist.

Regrouping, of course, is what Thanksgiving is all about, people folding back into their tribes for support and renewal and love. There will doubtless be feasts on the Island haunted by sore points of the election, but you just don’t need to say, “How could you vote for that lying pig, Dimwit?”

Codger thinks you should make your points in a non-confrontational way. “I told you so” will come later. Codger thinks that many Trump supporters will need solace up the road when they discover they’ve been bamboozled.

(Crone reminds all not to forget frequent hugs, Cur not to forget frequent treats.)

Resetting was a big word in sports this year. Every time a coach walked out to the mound to settle down a pitcher in trouble, a broadcaster would say he was “resetting” him. Slightly more than half of all voters need to dial down the anxiety caused by the meanness of the election campaign and the shock of the outcome, not because it’s an unjustified response but because that energy is self-destructive and non-productive.

It was former President Nixon, after all, who famously said that by hating, you destroy yourself. This is a good time to take deep breaths on Shell Beach, hike Mashomack and get back to the Fit Center, not only to block out the continuing assault of nasty news but to get in shape for the struggle to come.

Resistance to a potentially dark age needs to be approached carefully and incrementally. The malice and divisiveness nurtured by the election was always there. It needs to be weeded out from the roots.

For starters, think locally about the issues that mean the most to you, and dig in, whether that means donating more money and time to groups fighting for equality and justice or organizing for elections to come. The most apocalyptic disaster approaching is the effects of climate change; the resistance begins by supporting Town Board members behind such environmental issues as water quality.

The resistance begins Thursday while we’re offering Thanksgiving for love and renewal.