Friday, November 28, 2008

A Post-Thanksgiving Grumble

Somehow, it never really seems like a true Thanksgiving anymore unless someone, somewhere, is trying to make me feel guilty for having all the things I spend that day giving thanks for.

Of course, it never really seems like a true Veterans Days anymore without someone, somewhere, accusing me of hypocrisy (or worse) for honoring soldiers and their service without my having personally reorganized the entire Veterans Administration. Or a true Christmas anymore unless someone, somewhere, at some point, requires me to rebuke the whole of Christianity based on the actions of the nuttiest of wingnut, Old Testament–thumping fanatics. (Or the Crusades.) Or a true September 11th without my being asked to atone, somehow, for every misdeed, real or imagined, committed by my country since September 12th of 2001.

Can I have my one day, whether to honor or to remember or to just plain give thanks? Please?

These single days are important. They mean something. I realize that more and more as I get older. Every so often, we take one day, and we focus on something. Or on some part of something much larger. We remind ourselves about it. We remember. And we hopefully regain a perspective that we'll carry with us through the days that follow.

It's not hypocrisy. It's not insensitivity. And it is not, by any means, willful blindness.

On September 11th, I remember more than 3,000 dead innocents. There are 364 other days a year to argue foreign policy.

On Veterans Day, I remember the soldiers I've known, and those I haven't, and how they served in a way that I never did, how they did something I'm not sure that I could have done myself. Because there are 364 other days a year to argue over bureaucracies, and benefits, and how best to provide them.

On Christmas, I remember the good that Christianity has brought. How it inspired abolitionists to help end slavery in my own country. How a believer like William Wilberforce challenged and guided England until it used the Royal Navy to end the slave trade. How the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., marched and struggled for civil rights with the Constitution in one hand and a Bible in the other. How this faith allows person after person to walk into war zones and do good, or drives someone to perform a simple act of kindness for someone he or she has never met before and most likely will never see again. Because there are 364 other days a year during which I'll be glad to help catalog the bad, and might even lend Richard Dawkins my ear, at least for a while.

And on Thanksgiving, I count my blessings, and I give thanks for them. I give thanks to whatever allowed me to work so long and so hard, to get through the things in my life that I've gotten through, to be able to have the good things that I've somehow earned. And I give thanks to God or the Universe—and sometimes, I'll be honest, to both—for the good things that have seemed to just fall into my life out of nowhere. And I also eat more than I should.

But none of it, not one bit, means that I somehow don't care about those who are "food-disadvantaged." Or that I'm somehow actually celebrating the "genocide" wrought by my unremittingly sinful forefathers who apparently had not a single redeeming feature. Because we human beings are able to see the good and the bad, to be aware of the sins and the miracles, and to learn from the mistakes while also celebrating what we got right. We just sometimes need to pick a day, a single day, and then focus in on one thing. Or on one part of something much larger.

Because we have 364 other days a year for you to "educate and inform" us, when we can deal with everything else, and when we can have those debates. And I promise, you'll get a much more receptive hearing from me on any of those 364 other days. You might even have a chance of actually changing my mind.

So can I have my one day? Please?

Just one day, every so often. That's all I'm really asking.