We should be giving thanks to the Native Americans who taught European immigrants to survive in the New World. To the black people who constructed our economy as slaves, reconstructed it as freed men and women, gave us the civil rights movement, and now fight against state violence in the forms of police and penal brutality. To the immigrants, Mexican and Vietnamese, Jewish and Muslim, people from all over the world who have created our culture. To the women who have reproduced our country generation after generation and today lead the resistance against abuse of power. To Mother Nature for literally everything.
But would such thanksgiving imply an appreciation for the gift itself, the gift of our existence in today’s world? How embarrassing to acknowledge that such sacrifice and oppression have enabled our petty, mean, polluted, exploited existence. I do not give you thanks. I give you apologies.
But in an effort, again, to see the positive coupled to the negative (an effort that feels forced, Herculean even, but I hope in time will feel more natural): Shame and regret imply a standard of value without which life would be neutral, Purgatorial. I could not hold these negative perspectives without their positive complements. I feel embarrassed by exploitation because I believe in freedom. I feel sorrow about violence because I believe in harmony. It is not just that I wish we had freedom or harmony; it is that I know they are real, they are powerful, they are worthwhile; I have experienced their beauty, their love, their laughter. Without such compelling values to fight for, there would be no reason to fight against. More depressing than outrage against injustice is resignation to it. Thus can I say, for the creative possibilities of nature and culture — I am grateful.