We’re having ham tomorrow. Turkey on Friday. My sister, the doctor, won’t eat either, and that’s ok. The kids may eat nothing at all, and that’s ok, too. Family will feel right, will feel like home, will do me the solid of permitting me to avert my gaze from the otherwise captivating horror that is the state of things.
Beyond the grace that has settled over my immediate perimeter – enough to throw down a mighty gauntlet of humblebrag as I give thanks this week, if I were to so choose – it’s difficult to frame Thanksgiving in a way all that different than a funeral. I may have much by which to feel personally blessed, but if I open my eyes and look out, much more by which to feel utterly bereaved.
Today I give thanks for the opportunity to live in a nation that purports to be free, but I grieve its failures and the failures of its members to seek freedom for all.
Today I give thanks for the opportunity to live in a nation that purports to be safe, but I grieve its failures and the failures of its members to value the safety of all, always.
Today I give thanks for the opportunity to live in a nation that purports to be great, but grieve its failures and the failures of its members to seek greatness of thought, greatness of love, and greatness of achievement beyond the ringing delusion of superiority.
If there’s a God in all of this, in our midst and in our hearts, taking account of what we say and do and feel and hope for ourselves and for others, I often have a hard time considering the depth of God’s own grief. Sometimes I simply hope that God is not, so that there need not be any guilt at our failures that, for God, would be nothing if not uniquely personal.
America may have always carried more value as an ideal, than as an actual place. After all, the things we used to lay claim to as our strengths are barely discernible as qualities, let alone qualities at which we excel. So what is this place we call home if it has stopped being a place where bravery outlasts fear? Where freedom outlasts security? Where compassion outlasts selfishness? Where our collective commitment to the ideal – not because we chose it, but because it our fucking birthright – outlasts our commitment to ourselves? Where those that would seek our votes for the varied offices in our government, for us and by us, do so with due deference to civility, to democracy, to reason?
The heartbreaking conclusion I often come to is that our America, right now, is shell of its former self, or at least what it sought through the very fabric of its institutions. It is a reality to mourn with every Muslim called a terrorist and made to fear for her own life, every person of color beaten and kicked for daring to open his voice, every unarmed protestor sprayed with bullets or tear gas through the guns of citizens and the State, every woman struggling to make ends meet for her children while being told she’s a Welfare Queen, every corporate CEO that exploits another loophole to line his pockets and the pockets of his investors, every kid that goes to bed hungry far too often and once is too much come the fuck on, every family debilitated by medical issues, every person of color kept from the voting booth through sophisticated and unsophisticated methods of suppression, every child taught that they have a ceiling and that they must accept it or perish, every man, woman or child put behind bars as we breathlessly seek vengeance for crimes real and perceived, every education budget shouted down, every creative idea threatened out of existence, every face that looks out on what we have wrought and wonders how is this possible? How is this what it is?
We have much to mourn, whether we stand or sit or kneel or sleep through dreams ravaged by a simply unbelievable reality, and mourn we must. There is a difference between the humanity we have been given as stewards of ourselves and each other, and the inhumanity with which so many are callously treated under the boot of indifference, oppression and worse. There is a difference between the way things are and the way things ought to be.
Today I give thanks for being able to tell the difference.