Please, internet, forgive me for posting what amounts to an unsolicited rant on the internet right before Thanksgiving. It’s the most inappropriate time for such things; indeed, Thanksgiving has become the holiday of unsolicited ranting. If it isn’t a rant from your right-wing uncle about how groups of systematically oppressed people are ruining this country by politely asking not to be shot, it’s your overly nutritionally conscious guest going on the warpath for their favorite dish not being gluten-free. Or it’s the organized bevy of relatives constantly asking when you’re getting married, or if you’re married when you’re having kids, or if you have kids when they’re going to college, and once they’re in college it’s time for them to produce of course.
So there’s enough ranting on Thanksgiving, so forgive me, but this rant is about Thanksgiving. It deserves its own rant. It’s a holiday in many ways unique to the United States, though its central (modern) theme is simply about being grateful everyone made it through the year in one piece with their health, and about celebrating that with the family and inner circle of friends and acquaintances. There’s plenty of political commentary to be had about what Thanksgiving means to different groups of people, but this post is not about that. At least not expressly.
This post is about the great Thanksgiving irony, the vacuum of cognitive dissonance created over these fifty states late every November that might, one day, actually drag us to our deaths like a black hole. It’s the irony of millions of people who have so much, many of them greedily clawing onto it with bloodied fingers, being grateful for what they have without being willing to share what they have with others. It’s an irony that threatens to completely rend the human condition in half.
Think about it for a second, ignore the uncomfortable feelings you get thinking about it and just think about what Americans have. As an American myself, I feel qualified to speak of what we have. We live in a country where most of us have access to pocket-sized smart phones powered by minerals thousands of child soldiers have died in Africa over the right to sell to phone providers for pennies on the dollar. We live in a country where civil war is unheard of except in a history class. Most astonishingly, we live in a country where even a Dunkin running out of dark roast is pretty unheard of.
And yet somehow, in that sea of excess, millions of Americans who are literally choking in luxury, who are literally so satiated and well-provided for they die of over-consumption, outright refuse to offer the simplest pf help to the less fortunate, whether those less fortunate be Americans or not. They recoil at the idea of the welfare state, they joke about panhandlers being con-artists living in million-dollar homes, they laugh at raising the minimum wage, they balk at paying a minimal portion of their income in taxes to fund unemployment benefit or community centers for poor children or tuition subsidies.
These same people will gather around tables across the country on Thursday and pronounce how grateful they are for what they’ve successfully horded to themselves. But no matter how loudly they acclaim their thanks they can’t escape the reality that Thanksgiving is a holiday the very premise of which strikes at the heart of their opulent and imperialistic worldviews.
Thanksgiving is about being grateful for one’s family, for one’s health, for the countless immaterial things that separate us from the animals. But one cannot feel grateful without understanding, appreciating, and grieving for the suffering of others. Thanksgiving is not a holiday for those who have never had to struggle. And may it forever stay that way.