In advance of Thanksgiving, lots of websites give “tips” to young people, who perceive themselves as more knowledgeable, smarter, better educated and right, on how to talk to that drunken idiot uncle who is against everything he shouldn’t be and who is destroying everything. There hasn’t been as much of that this year, but what there has been has been far more vicious and furious.
Sit down. I have something to tell you and it’s going to make you sad. This is the year you will shut up and listen to your uncle. He’s not drunk. He’s not mean. He’s not stupid. And most importantly, he may not be wrong.
Yes, the very existence and celebration of Thanksgiving is wrong. I know about the disease brought from Europe, the slaughter of the native Americans, who were called Indians before we became sensitive. And I know all the arguments against Trump, racism, sexism, global warming, xenophobia, transphobia, homophobia, technophobia, arachnophobia and that tattoos are perfectly reasonable expressions of your deepest emotions that couldn’t possibly be undesirable ten years from now. You’ve told me. You’ve screamed at me. You’ve called me every name you can think of plus some. I heard you.
This year, shut up and listen. This year, don’t do all the talking. This year, remember that the old people at the table wiped your tears when you fell and skinned your knee and your tushie when it needed wiping.* They aren’t your enemy. They aren’t evil. They are your family, your friends, your loved ones.
They were young once, but you were never older. They wanted to change the world, make things better, help people. They don’t have malice in their hearts. What they have is the moderation that comes of experience. Think you, plus experience. Think you, plus the suffering of headaches, nightmares, problems that they’ve protected you from.
You feel badly about the people who don’t have enough to eat? They went to sleep hungry because they didn’t have enough to eat. You only know the experience from reading about it or having some academic who, like you, has never experienced it tell you so. They experienced what you only see from your safe distance. And you’re going to tell them?
They will tolerate you. They will love you anyway, because that’s what they do. They will shake their heads, hopeful that someday you will grow up and realize the foolishness of your smug, self-righteous, youthful arrogance.
You will have children of your own someday, whose tears need to be wiped away, whose tushies need whatever they need, and who will need to be fed every single night or they will go to sleep hungry. You will experience the love you have for your own children, and the need to forego your own dinner so they can eat well.
You will realize what sacrifice means, and why you do so willingly for your posterity. And why you won’t sacrifice your children for the abstract causes that seem so very important when you have no other responsibilities in your life.
Maybe everything is wrong. Maybe we are on the eve of destruction. Maybe this time you’re right. But be thankful that you have these mean old people in your life, the ones who brought you to this place in your life so that you could complain and blame them unmercifully, because maybe everything isn’t wrong.
Listen to them, if for no other reason than they love you.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
*Not nearly as much fun as you think.