These are gray, beautiful days. We walk along the plains, almost 2,000 acres of shrub land and scrub oaks. I keep my eyes on the long gray skies and remember again why Ishmael goes back to sea whenever November is in his soul. I’m not tempted to go to sea, I enjoy going back to a warm home when outside it doesn’t go over 32 degrees.
I miss the call to adventure. Instead, I have a conversation with Henry and Aussie about—what else?—politics.
“You’d think you Libs would be happy after the election,” snaps Aussie. “Instead you’re scared shitless by what Trump will accomplish before he leaves.”
“What’s the worst he could do?” asks Henry.
“It’s too much to hope that he’d deport all chihuahuas to Mexico,” growls Aussie.
“He’ll add more folks to the unemployment rolls, that’s for sure,” I say.
“Because of corona?”
“No, because he’s going to fire half of all government employees, especially career diplomats and professionals in the intelligence community,” I tell her. “Would probably love to fire some generals but I don’t know if he can, not to mention all the Republicans who supervised elections in states that went Blue.”
“I’m sure he’ll award Ivanka, Don Jr., Eric, and Jared well-deserved Presidential Medals of Freedom,” says Aussie. “Maybe Tiffany and Melania too. If only he’d invited me to be his White House dog, he’d probably be giving me a Medal of Freedom, too. I’d go down in history instead of walking in this God-forsaken place.”
“I don’t know if dogs can get Medals of Freedom, Auss.”
“We’re civilians like everybody else. Beside, Trump doesn’t care about silly rules like that, that’s what made him who he is today.”
This Thanksgiving will be my first in a very long time without family. But I’m lucky, I have money for food, and in case I don’t feel like cooking for 1 or 2, the Stone Soup Café, which provides hundreds of hearty, flavorful meals in this community every week, is giving away fabulous Thanksgiving meals on a pay-what-you-can basis. I haven’t been there in a long time, but this may just be the ticket. It will be nice to greet Kirstin, their head chef, and their big team of volunteers.
We’re also beginning a give-away of some $1250-1500 in food cards over the next 8 days to immigrant families to make sure they have food for the holiday. I can’t forget how my orthodox Jewish family, including my Russian rabbi grandfather, always had a Thanksgiving meal. I haven’t met the immigrants or refugees, regardless of religious and cultural observances, who don’t participate in Thanksgiving as soon as they arrive.
So, what are my Thanksgiving thoughts?
“You Americans don’t have your own main culture, except for maybe Thanksgiving.” I still remember the evening when a Filipino playwright friend of mine said this at a meeting with me and other writer friends in a New York City apartment. I felt some annoyance. In New York there’s a Filipino theater that produces your plays, I wanted to tell her. Where would you and many of us be if we had one main culture that imposed its rules and limitations on everybody?
In a recent interview in the Atlantic Magazine, Barack Obama said that the United States is an incredible experiment in building a true multi-cultural society. Unlike other countries, Western and otherwise, we don’t have a dominant culture. Whites will soon be a minority, and with their majority goes any pretense we might have had of a dominant culture that was primarily white, Christian, and European in origin. Many people believe that this is what the partisanship we are experiencing now is mostly about (even though Donald Trump got more Latino and African American votes than before).
Like it or not, we’re on our way. We’ll melt a little in the big pot—we usually do in Thanksgiving, when everybody eats and gathers with family—but big pieces of us don’t melt so easily. We want to hold on to our ethnic, religious, and cultural differences, and why not? It’s where our parents stood, our grandparents; it’s our genealogy. Why invalidate it?
“When we define ourselves, when I define myself, the place in which I am like you and the place in which I am not like you, I’m not excluding you from the joining—I’m broadening the joining.”
That was written by Audre Lorde, a woman of color, a Lesbian, a mother, a poet and essayist, a feminist. A little like me, a lot not like me, but at this time in our history, her words rang bells and bells. I can’t and won’t deny my life experience as white, female, Jewish, Buddhist, immigrant. What in that makes me any less of an American? When I was very young, I tried to conceal the Jewish side of me for several years. What I realized over the decades is that I fit in better when I stand in my origins, in my difference, than when I pretend they’re not there. The more unique the traits, the better the possibilities for a great joining.
The poet Joseph Pintauro wrote:
I am not who I was
I am not going to be who I was going to be
you changed all that
you are not who you were
you are not going to be who you were going to be
I changed all that …
who are we going to be?
we are going to be who we never would have been
without each other.