Tom Purcell: America could use a good food fight this Thanksgiving.


Tom Purcell - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review



Every day in our country, factions grow and battle lines harden. Americans are spending more time with like-minded people, their “tribes,” and less with people holding differing viewpoints, those “Neanderthals hell-bent on destroying the country.”

Technology has widened our divide. Social media encourage us to befriend those who think like us – and defriend and demonize those who don’t.

When I grew up in the 1970s, America watched ABC, CBS or NBC. Since many homes had just one television set, networks maximized viewership by catering to families. Walter Cronkite, voted “most trusted man in America” by viewers, was at his career’s peak.

Is any TV news journalist as widely trusted today?

Meanwhile, cable TV’s targeting of niche audiences has produced talking-head shows that lather up the left and right with increasingly exaggerated and toxic rhetoric that helps to destroy civil discourse, as shameless producers turn niche viewers into fat paychecks.

I don’t believe Americans are as divided or rigid in our beliefs as we seem. I believe we all want what’s best, but have different ideas for achieving that desired outcome – and we should discuss them.

Here’s something we should discuss: 30 million Americans cannot read or write above a third-grade level.

Also, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 64% of eighth-graders, 82% of black students and 77% of Hispanic students can’t read proficiently.

How will these kids flourish in an economy that demands strong reading and writing skills? Here’s a sobering statistic: 85% of juveniles in the court system are functionally illiterate, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, as are the vast majority of prison inmates.

How can we address this literacy crisis? Education reform? Tax and school-funding reform? More charter schools? School vouchers? Volunteering to tutor kids?

Why aren’t we discussing this issue?

I believe Americans are much more nuanced, thoughtful and well-meaning than we give ourselves credit for. We allow self-serving interests – profit-driven media executives – to pit us against each other.

They sensationalize impeachment, anonymous sources and ever-more-ridiculous hyperbole to profit at the expense of important discussions we should be having to correct so many problems that need to be corrected.

That’s why America needs a good food fight this Thanksgiving.

Look, Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day of coming together and showing gratitude for our many blessings. Regrettably, in our highly agitated state, tensions between left- and right-leaning folks and everyone in between are ruining our holiday meals.

So this year, let the mashed potatoes fly!

It will be impossible to dislike conservative Uncle Mike with gravy dripping from his nose and cranberry sauce in his ear.

It will be impossible to be angered by liberal Aunt Suzy with a dinner roll in her hair and bean casserole splattered all over her turtleneck.

Every food fight in history has concluded with camaraderie and laughter. This one will help us remember we’re all just human beings trying to muddle through our increasingly complex world – and that we must treat those with whom we disagree more fairly.

Hopefully, once we come to our senses, we can have a meaningful discussion about solving our problems – the types of

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Tom Purcell

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.

Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.

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