Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

What Is Thanksgiving to a 2020 American?

 

autumn leaves surrounding a surgical mask

Debbie says:

To begin with, Thanksgiving means something different to everyone. Some people hate the holiday and don’t celebrate it. Some people, for completely sound reasons, find it offensive. Some people are used to observing it alone, or with one or two other people. Some people come from other traditions, and just don’t get the point.

For all the years of this blog, Laurie and I have done a gratitude post for Thanksgiving: good things that have happened during the year. We have tried to make sure that our list is international and multi-subject (science, art, sport, health, politics). We decided not to do that this year. While there are things worth appreciating, this country is just in too much of a shambles, and our government caused so much pain, suffering, mental health challenges, disability, and death to so many, that general gratitude seems … hypocritical. Laurie and I both know we’ve been very lucky so far in this pandemic.  We may both have things to be grateful for–but we all have so much to lament. Frankly, we all also have a great deal to resent, and people to blame.

Since I’m feeling the lack of having (some of) my closest people with me this year, Laurie and I also decided that I should write something about 2020 Thanksgiving.I understand why the holiday is offensive, and in some ways the poster child for white supremacy celebrations. I also understand that it can easily become a paean to gluttony–the groaning board table, the expectation that we will eat too much, the inevitable waste. Nonetheless, I love the holiday. I love the food and the abundance (and I try to minimize the waste). I love the gathering with friends and family, the sense of togetherness and connection, sometimes the conscious attention to gratitude.

For many years, I have wished I had a fixed Thanksgiving plan, with mostly the same people every year, in mostly the same place. That just hasn’t worked out. For some years, my partner and I ate with friends who have small children. One year, we had a big meal in our house, which isn’t especially well designed for it, but we had a great time. Last year, he and I brought a small Thanksgiving to a friend recovering from surgery, and invited a few other friends. None of them have been my perfect Thanksgiving, but they have mostly had something of the flavor I care about.

And so will this Thursday. We’ll eat with our downstairs neighbors, who have been a pod with us since March. The food will be excellent and yes, the table will be abundant. The conversation will be pleasant, if somewhat predictable. The 8-year-old who lives downstairs will fidget until he’s allowed to play with his electronics.

But it will all happen in a context of rising cases, full ICUs (not where we are yet), the people Nikole Hannah-Jones accurately calls sacrificial workers taking chances for the rest of us. You and I, reading and writing this, may not know anyone whose loved one is dying of COVID in a hospital where no one can visit them, but we know they are there. We may not know anyone who is still unable to walk across a room four months after “recovering” from the virus, but we know they are there. We may not know anyone who has completely lost the business they gave their lives to, or the job they fed their families with, but we know they are there. In the hundreds of thousands, in the millions. We may not know anyone who refuses to wear a mask, or demonstrates for the right to large public gatherings, but we know they are there too. We also know how many people, who may be otherwise protected and fortunate, are eating alone tomorrow. Nonetheless, humans tend to cling to some kind of hope in hard times.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are a ray of hope, but it is hard to be grateful for their election when we worked to hard to get them where they are, and we know how much opposition they face, and how many ways they will fall short of our hopes — even while they turn the country’s response to the coronavirus around. Electing Biden and Harris will be the end of the Trump catastrophe, but it won’t solve any of America’s pre-existing, now exacerbated, problems. It only gives us a springboard from which to keep pushing for what we believe in.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines aren’t just rays of hope, they are beams of expectation–and they will be slowed down at least some by distribution inequities, technical issues, supply-chain failures, and people who are committed to the belief that all vaccines are conspiratorial devices.  The experts are hoping that these vaccines, and the ones behind them in the pipeline, will free us up by next late summer or fall, with far too many deaths, disabilities, failed businesses, lost jobs, and drug overdoses between here and there.

It does seem worth mentioning the landmark news out of Scotland: free menstrual hygiene products for everyone! Laurie had been following the campaign, but it came as a complete surprise to me, and another bright ray of hope on the horizon. It’s just the kind of thing we would showcase in a happier post.

I’ll be trying to enjoy what I have, keep thinking about my own efforts to heal the world, writing postcards to Georgia voters, helping amuse the 8-year-old, and not eating too much. I hope you will be doing your version of the same.

Follow Debbie on Twitter.

Follow Laurie’s new Pandemic Shadows photos on Instagram.

 

Thanksgiving 2019: Still Finding Hope

the first detailed photograph of a black hole

Laurie and Debbie say:

Hope can feel hard to come by in these times, is why we think it’s so important to name and celebrate people and things we’re thankful for:

The U.S. impeachment proceedings against Donald J. Trump are in full swing, and the evidence for the narrow case the Democrats are mounting is very hard to refute (which is why the Republicans are doing everything they can to distract from the case and raise red herrings). Polls vary, but it does seem clear that more Americans support impeachment and removal than oppose it. Many other cases and lawsuits against the current presidency are in various stages, including the three emoluments lawsuits, all of which have been granted standing and are moving forward.

In other U.S. national politics issues:

The 2020 census is proceeding without a citizenship question. The controversy around this frightened many Latinx and other immigrants and will have somewhat of a chilling effect on voting, but Latin voting rights organizations are doing terrific work countering that issue.

The practice of “deplatforming” right-wing voices is having a real effect. Both Milo Yiannopoulos and Alex Jones have more or less disappeared from the scene since they were removed from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in 2018. This year, after multiple mass-shooting “manifestos” were posted on the site, hate site 8chan was deplatformed and is still looking for a home.

In the realm of science, we have our first detailed photograph of a black hole (above), from the Event Horizon Telescope’s global network of radio dishes!

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved not one but two new drugs to treat sickle cell anemia, an extremely painful and often fatal condition largely found in people of African descent. (The rapper Prodigy died of sickle cell anemia in 2017.) These drugs are outrageously expensive; however, many drugs drop in price a year or two after approval, and some insurance companies will approve them now.

Like U.S. and U.K. politics, the global climate situation inspires a lot of hopelessness. So we’re thankful for Greta Thunberg and the Sunrise Movement, young people who care enough about the world they want to live in to mount an implacable assault on the powers-that-be. And knowing that the European Investment Bank is divesting quickly from fossil fuel investments helps too.

We’re thankful for Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, and the country’s Parliament, who knew how a state should react to a devastating mass shooting: change the laws quickly.

We appreciate the U.S. District Court ruling acquitting Scott Warren of “illegally harboring refugees” when in fact he was providing humanitarian aid to people in need.

One of the ways we survive in these times is through the work of investigative journalists — an imperiled profession. In that context, we want to name Julie K. Brown, who (mostly in 2018) dropped the hammer on Jeffrey Epstein, leading to his imprisonment.

Our home state of California has led the way in a number of important things to be thankful for:

  • The nation’s strongest law limiting police use of force: Officers may shoot only when lives are in immediate danger, not when they are “afraid for their lives.” The ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project is also doing great work in the area of police violence. And Laurie’s home city just elected Chesa Boudin, a superb progressive district attorney.
  • A law permitting (finally!) student athletes to make money from use of their names and images. This law, with similar ones passed by a few other states, has caused the NCAA to finally back down from it’s “we’re rich; you can’t make a dime” historic position, though details still have to be worked out.
  • Along with New York and several cities, a law protecting people whose hairstyles might otherwise be excuses to keep them from jobs and schooling. Of course, this has mostly been used against Black people, so this is an anti-racist trend.
  • A law making a roadmap for local public banks in the state. (Debbie was an organizer on this one.)

We want to mention our personal thanks for the work of Stacey Abrams, magnificent crusader for voting and human rights, and for the work of Ibram X. Kendi, a writer who is  reframing the conversation about racism. There are thousands more people whose work deserves thanks: this list from Bitch Magazine names 50 of them (only a couple of whom we named above). One person we found in the Bitch 50 list is Rebecca Alexander, whose AllGo app helps fat people find the places where the chairs and other furniture will work for them — a much-needed service.

We are grateful to every single person who is engaging in resistance here or in their own country: people doing the amazing work that needs to be done: all the thousands upon thousands of them.