Folse writes the long, reflective, annual post about selective culture straddling and syncretism in modern-day America so I don’t have to.
My wife takes the whole thing a bit more seriously, will brook no discussion of the Pilgrims as an American proto-Taliban and insist someone Say Grace. It will likely fall to me, who has no use for modern Christianity in any flavor and who is hosting an old friend who is a devout Pagan, to come up with some suitable words.
… Reading the paper lately makes the entire idea of thankful a bit challenging until I remember those ne“er-do-well Protestants sitting in their little stockade, in a place as alien as any distant planet, starving their way into winter managed to have themselves a good time, after their fashion. Still, the challenges of living in New Orleans gives me pause when I stop to rehearse my thankful list.
So, too, this post was poised to turn into paragraphs and eye rolls about the cultural shades of grey in which the only carnivore in her orthodox-vegetarian-Hindu family prepares to host The Third Annual Real Turkey, Bacon Stuffing, Made-From-Scratch Cranberry Relish, Red Wine and Honest-To-Goodness Pumpkin Pie ExtravaganzaTM to which are invited Catholic, Protestant and irreligious friends from Wisconsin who had might as well be family. How I am very much Hindu but will invite a friend’s mother to Say Grace in my home because it only feels right. How thankful I am to have many families, not just the ones I was born and married into – in Ohio, Wisconsin, New Orleans, India – who treat me as a sister, a daughter. How simultaneously lonely and embraced I feel to be this cultural pivot: a product of millenia of pure-breeding (more or less) who has no hold on one, traditional identity but is a walking troupe of the conventions, languages, thoughts, values and pathologies of encountered people and places. How I ponder whether it is normal (or, at least, not cause to internally strain) to have these parallel, compartmentalized lives that seldom overlap due to the constraints of space, time and culture.
Oh, don’t you worry, I’ve subjected you to weeks of a witty statement relating to these sentiments. It’s the banner above, which none of you took a stab at. *pouts* In front of a globe (because I’m a geo-nerd) positioned to show Europe in the east and America in the west, a lone Indian eats turkey with a bunch of white folks. Think about it, for if I have to explain further, we’re both in trouble. Behind the globe, a large, glowing Space Turkey comes in to dock (because I’m a sci-fi nerd as well). In the upcoming battle, will we eat the turkey? Or will the turkey eat us?
Still, like Folse, the challenges of living in this nation give me pause. As my big, fat turkey brines and prepares to enter a warm oven, there are more and more Americans, especially in the South but even in this Yankee state of Ohio, who have nothing to eat. From The Philadelphia Inquirer:
49 million people – 17 million of them children – last year [were] unable to consistently get enough food to eat, according to a report released … by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
… Of those 49 million, 12 million adults and 5.2 million children reported experiencing the country’s most severe hunger, possibly going days without eating. Among the children, nearly half a million in the developmentally critical years under age 6 were going hungry. That’s three times the number in 2006.
If that isn’t enough, as we look forward to sink into our sofas, loosen our belts and watch that Thursday football game, our president is ordering more young Americans into a bloody imperial war zone. How do you think those women and men and their families feel? It seems we as a nation can’t afford much, but we can still give and give love, support, our humanity.
After you’re done with tomorrow’s meal, especially when feeling the inevitable guilt of having eaten so much, attack your closet, pantry and storage. Pull out all of the clothes, coats and shoes you’ve never worn or will never wear again and those cans of soup and vegetables you keep promising you’ll eat. Take them down to the closest shelter or food bank. When you shop on Friday or this weekend, please drop cash in the Salvation Army buckets whenever possible and buy a toy or a book for your local Toys For Tots Christmas program. Please write a check to that person in your neighborhood or workplace who is collecting non-perishable food and supplies for our soldiers. Tomorrow is also the first anniversary of the horrific attacks on Mumbai. Many in India can use our help, too.
If you can read this, anywhere on this globe, you obviously have internet access: do a search for any local, trustworthy charity and give. Be it through your place of worship, bank or library, give. Give whenever you can, how ever much you can, but please just give. Where we want, they need. Where we are doing badly, they are doing worse. Give.
After you’ve given, volunteer. Teach.
I give thanks to Rama, Lakshma, Jesus, Allah, Odin, Ashe, the almighty FSM, any and every guiding spirit that my husband and I can put hearty and spicy food on our plates, have good friends who will eat it and can give. If this is where my travels and experiences have brought me, if this is my disparate, diverse, “confused” identity, so be it. I can’t ask for more.