Like many of you, I will be spending the day with friends, family, and people I love. I’ll be eating turkey, having some good slash awkward conversations with plenty of eye-rolling, and watching a guy run the ball up the middle for a loss of yardage instead of just going around the defenders like he should’ve done.
Like many of you, I have a lot for which to be thankful.
And like almost all of you, my giving-of-thanks should be mingled with a touch of grief, especially insofar as what I am thankful for falls under the rubric of The American Dream.
To come at this by way of illustration, is it right for the child of a jewel thief to thank God for his Xbox?
Sure, he may believe that it is God who is the ultimate Source of that gift (and he may be right), but that doesn’t change the fact that it was purchased with money gained through the hocking of stolen property. Is the child himself personally responsible for his father’s larceny? Of course not. And neither are we today personally responsible for the extermination of the Indians and the theft of their land that paved the way for all the material benefits for which we are so thankful.
But if the child eventually learns where his Xbox came from, that knowledge cannot but taint his enjoyment of it a little (as well as stop his bragging to others about how great it is). And likewise with us and the blessings we have: there’s a sense of humility, of discomfort, and of unease that ought to linger in our minds and hover above our tables today.
Do we not owe Justice at least that much? Do we not owe at least that much to Love?
And as far as how exactly this should all be expressed, that’s a question each person must answer for him- or herself. I will say this much, though: Even a passing thought, a silent prayer, or a brief acknowledgement of the sacrifices that were made to make us all so thankful is hardly an unbearable burden or undue expectation.
After all, the ones who sacrificed the most for our American way of life weren’t even given a say in the matter.
So for my part (and for most of us I hope), it is not ultimately the things we have for which we are most thankful, but the people in our lives who surround us and love us and invest our days with meaning and joy.
That’s what I will be celebrating today. Because all the stuff I own, made by the sweatshop labor of unwilling sacrificers, is hardly deserving of gratitude.
But the people in my life? They certainly are worthy of thanksgiving, and infinitely more.