Pass the turkey and opinions - Rob Felt

Thankfulness, family, pilgrims and Indian corn, little kids coloring outlines of their hands to look like a turkey, food, football and a day off of work (for most). Now that we've gotten that out of the way here's what I'm thankful for: the First Amendment.

At Thanksgiving dinner today you can say: "pass the sweet po-tay-toes," and I can say: "pass the sweet po-tah-toes," and you won't send a suicide bomber after me in the mall tomorrow.

Americans, despite some bitter ideological divisions, generally get along. Now that's saying a lot – so don't take it for granted. Our freedoms allow for a fantastic range of opinions wider than the most patriotic fields of amber grain.

Our company has an annual Thanksgiving lunch where everyone brings some food and we overeat while gently arguing about who has more work to do. In the buffet line of this – la carte repast a co-worker took a joking stab at the politics of a column I wrote some weeks back. We had a light and humorous debate before being distracted by an attention-grabbing side dish (something baked with cheese on top) and that was that.

Not only is it amazing that most of us can do this with one another, but the co-worker in question outranks me and is older! Who was I to disagree?

Beyond the expression of divergent opinions and the hope for civility in doing so lies the goal of open-mindedness. This wondrous prospect may include changing your mind about something – an idea so scary that some ignore opinions that don't mirror their own.

Although I can't imagine myself voting for a Democrat in next year's presidential election, I've been watching the debates. Does that make me better than other middle to right-leaners who have their minds set on four more years of Bush? Why yes?it does, thank you.

Shouldn't you know why someone disagrees with you in addition to how? Can you truly have an opinion if you can't argue a case for the other side?

During one frightful moment during the debate this week I found myself agreeing with Dennis Kucinich – the socialist bobble-head doll. He wants to repeal the North American Free Trade Agreement, and so do I.

Ross Perot came to Dennis' and my hometown of Cleveland to rally support against president Clinton's leaning on congress to pass NAFTA during the early 90's. I was a sophomore in high school and went to hear the speech, hanging on every word the tiny Texan barked at me.

The point of that flashback is that issues can cross parties and demographics, and they can also flip sides. Confusing, huh? Much easier to just vote a straight ticket, isn't it? What if I agree with Dennis on NAFTA and on his social issues, but think his big government ideas are nut-job?

That requires making a free choice and the access to adequate information, which brings us all the way back from Cleveland in the early 1990s to Turkey Day in the Southern Crescent. (Thanks for staying with me.)

This Thanksgiving, as you argue over a table full of food, remember that you are free to do so. Also remember the responsibility that this freedom burdens you with. Keep your opinions educated, and pass the sweet potatoes.

Rob Felt is the photographer for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at rfelt@henryherald.com.