Gratitude and Genocide

Thanksgiving was nearly a week ago now, so I feel like it’s just a little too late to address it, and that’s precisely how I do things.

I’m of two minds about Thanksgiving. The minds are thus:

  1. It’s rooted in colonialism and genocide, as most people know. We came, we saw, we ate their food, we gave them smallpox. I’m of mostly European descent, so I say “we” so as not to deflect blame from myself. My mother has First Nations ancestry, apparently, but none of that shows up in my DNA testing, so I’m not going to claim it. Is it because Ancestry has shit samples? Is that background family lore and nothing more? I don’t know. My dad is half Arabic, but the other half is equal parts Redneck and Colonizer.
  2. It’s never a bad idea to be grateful.

I can’t do anything about the colonization and genocide other than express contrition and make tasteless jokes about it on Facebook to make fun of White Folk at my own expense (I could discuss it at length, but not intelligently, because I’m a dumbass).  So instead, I’m going to talk about gratitude.

2019 was a shitty year for me and for a lot of people I know. But it certainly wasn’t as shitty as it could be. I feel like when you have it good, it’s easy to fall into a trap of “this is the worst thing EVER” because you’ve forgotten what it’s like to have it really bad. Imagine a spoiled teen weeping loudly because some douche at her school called her fat and saying her life is ruined vs a starving baby in a rural village with flies living in her rotting flesh who is too weak and dehydrated to cry.

It’s perspective, and we lose it sometimes.

So these are the things that I’m grateful for.

  1. I have a house that is insulated and waterproof with a new, working HVAC system that keeps me warm in the winter and cool in the summer. There are millions of people in the world who do not have this.
  2. I can have fresh water any time I want. I can get it from my fridge (I also have a fridge) or from the tap. I can grab a cup and make a quick movement and have clean water any time I want. There are millions of people in the world who do not have this.
  3. I’m typing this from a laptop in a special room in my house that’s reserved just for books and working. It’s an office. I have enough room in my house to have an office. Growing up, we didn’t have that. I had to share a room with my sister and share a bathroom with my sister and my parents (but I still had a fucking bathroom)….
  4. …I have bathrooms. I can relieve myself in private, in a room with a door, in a toilet that flushes, and it all goes to a public sewer system and I don’t have to do anything with it. I can then wash my hands in the aforementioned clean water, with soap. I have three toilets in my house. I have two showers and one bathtub. I have so much access to soap and hot water and clean water and privacy.
  5. I have a mattress and blankets and warm clothes.
  6. I’m sitting in my home office listening to music wearing three shirts and drinking wine and writing on my laptop.
  7. I have a car that runs, and runs well, and doesn’t smell weird, and doesn’t break down. It has rear cameras and side sensors and all that shit. I have a car at all.
  8. My family was lower middle class growing up, but we were loving. We were all a little nuts, but we loved each other. We had humor and affection. My parents are still married. I LIKE my parents. I LIKE my sister. I would like them even if they weren’t my parents and my sister. I love them, of course, but I also LIKE them. That’s a gift. I would take that any day over having a family with money and no emotional connection.
  9. I’m a weird person who’s hard to love sometimes, but I have a husband who does love me and stays with me by choice. I have friends who love me and stay with me by choice, even when I’m the worst version of myself.
  10. I have a job and a paycheck and coworkers that I get along with. There are no assholes where I work (that I know of). What the fuck is THAT.
  11. My stomach doesn’t hurt from starving. I ate so much on Thanksgiving that my stomach hurt. My stomach hurt from EATING. There are people starving to death within a 5 mile radius of where I live, but I can eat as much as I want, mostly because I got lucky being born when and where I did. At the same time that I was saying, “No, I couldn’t possibly eat more,” someone in the world died because they didn’t have enough food.
  12. I have access to medical care.
  13. I can replace things I break or get new things when I want.
  14. I no longer have to lay awake at night thinking about money.
  15. My life is so comfortable that I have the flexibility to ruminate on how lucky I am to have a good family and good friends and a job.

I could go on and on about the things we take for granted in modern Western civilization. There are literally people dying of thirst and hunger daily in the very same world where I stuff myself with oysters and cake and fancy-ass cheese and complain about how I get hungover from beer these days.

So I am grateful. I give money to help, but probably not enough and definitely not as much as I could.

Never forget what you have compared to what you could have. We are all one disaster away from living under a bridge. Be grateful. Give thanks. Buy a homeless guy some cigs or some chicken strips or a can of Heineken. Donate. Volunteer.

There are so many problems in the world that you can get overwhelmed thinking about all of them. You can’t save everyone. But be grateful for what you have. That’s the very least you can do.

B

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