It’s almost Thanksgiving, and I would like to write a post that’s all about gratitude, and really getting into the spirit of the holiday, but before I can nod out into a tryptophan and red wine induced haze, I can’t help but wonder:
The recent attacks in Paris, which left 129 dead and 433 wounded, were horrific on so many levels, but in particular because these heinous acts were aimed at people who were just going about their normal lives: eating, drinking, going to a concert, heading to a sports stadium to watch a France-Germany soccer match, walking down the bloody street.
Preceding that were the suicide bombings in Lebanon, where a pair of terrorists killed 43 and wounded 239 others in the Bourj al-Barajneh district in southern Beirut. This got less press, possibly because of the perception that Beirut is constantly under siege (for the record, it’s not — its civil war ended in 1990). While France got Facebook’s kick ass feature Safety Check activated, which allows people in a crisis area to check in and swiftly let their friends know they’re OK, Beirut didn’t have it available.
Kind of a boot in the butt for a country that’s absorbed more than one million refugees from Syria,which has seen four million flee for their lives from the four-year genocidal crisis that continues to this day with no end in sight.
Then there’s the Russian airliner that was taken down over the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt by a terrorist’s homemade bomb, killing all 224 onboard.
OK, so this was all just this past week, and attributable to The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as if they’re the only people out there hell-bent on destruction.
In our own country, and not attributable to ISIL, you’ll be sad/horrified/disgusted/terrified to note that in 2015 alone, way more than double the amount of Americans ever killed in terrorist attacks on our soil (3,521 to date) have been victims of gun violence in the States (11,581 as of November 17, 2015, according to the Gun Violence Archive).
Oh, and Charlie Sheen is HIV-positive, and never bothered to tell any of his sexual partners. Not that it’s the same as Armageddon or the Apocalypse, but it does have an air of harbinger-ness.
Combine all that with natural disasters including earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, wild fires, and general fallout from global warming, and things can get pretty damn depressing, pretty quickly.
So what’s a Thanksgiving reveler to do if the world is fucked? Here are a few things we gotta do:
1) Recognize that history repeats itself, and we’re still here. Uhm, let’s go right on back to the original Thanksgiving, which as Jay-Z says in “No Church in the Wild” was disguised as a feast — it was literally a celebration of religious zealots (aka Puritans) enslaving and/or massacring Native Americans, and then holding a “thanksgiving” to celebrate the annihilation of the heathens. And by heathens, we mean the people who taught the settlers to grow corn and fish, and who even negotiated a peace treaty with the strangers who arrived on their shores. Goddamn savages, right?!?
2) Get educated. Months ago I read this very intelligent, very thorough explanation of What ISIS Really Wants in The Atlantic. It’s terrifying alright, but if you open your eyes and understand how and why this is happening — and how it’s way different than the “old school” terrorism of Al Qaeda — you’re on your way to a unloading all that blissful ignorance and getting real about what we’re facing. I also LOVE what foul-mouthed, smart Erika Napoletano had to say about this hot mess we call knee-jerk reaction, and how we can actually be thoughtful and effective in our response to the horror overseas. (By JERK, I mean the people who threatened to kill Erika, called her the c-word, and generally sunk to a gross, low level when she mentioned that changing your profile pic on Facebook alone wasn’t enough to make a difference.)
3) Say hello, Dalai: The Dalai Lama, always full of sage advice, is spot-on for this one. He said to Deutsche Welle, a German broadcasting company, “We cannot solve this problem only through prayers. I am a Buddhist, and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking Gd to solve it. It is illogical. Gd would say solve it yourself, because you created it in the first place.” In other words, don’t pray for peace — act for it. Now.
4) Teach empathy, not apathy. This was a lesson I learned personally on 9/11, when my family and I lived just five miles from Ground Zero. The idea of launching new human beings into the world at a time when terrorism is widespread and threatening to tear us apart — literally — is staggering… and yet, it is NOT hopeless. As President Obama said in a 2011 radio address: “Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.” Sadly, this advice goes all the way through to today, where now we can turn our thoughts, actions and deeds to extend a hand to our international allies. And make sure our offspring does the same.
5) Remember what the French Lady sez . Lady Liberty, originally a gift from the people of France to the citizens of the U.S. — designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor, and built by Gustave Eiffel — bears this inscription by the American poet Emma Lazarus:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Nowhere does it qualify welcoming refugees based on where they’re from or by the religion they practice. And for that we as a country of immigrants should be eternally grateful. I know for my own family, who fled Russian pogroms, it’s a really good thing that the U.S. didn’t turn away refugees back in the day.
As President Obama said, “We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic. We don’t make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks.”
Can I get an Amen? Or an Awomen? Or a plain old AYE as in we’re ALL in this together?
When you from a place of fear, there’s only one place you can go… and it ain’t pretty.
But come from a place of love, and everything changes. Because like I always say, love is the ONLY answer.
And there is literally no question about that.
So if you see me raising a glass of French wine with a turkey leg chaser, just know that I’m keeping the faith and mainlining gratitude at the same time. I am thankful for all I have, and cognizant that it all can be taken in a blink of an eye, or a flick of a suicide bomber’s switch. There is love… and there is fear… and the choice of where to go is ours every single day.
I’m so thankful for y’all, and wish you a happy, healthy, safe holiday. À la vôtre!
Photo credit: “Taking the World by Storm,” by JD Hancock