|Photo by Daniel Hallorann taken|
today outside our home
Let me amend that. It's been enjoyable ever since I left home. As much as I loved my mother, as sweet a person as she was, and as much as she loved cooking holiday meals, she always followed a big holiday dinner by getting roaring drunk. And getting drunk always seemed to segue into talking about what a terrible teenager I was. I always dreaded it.
Since I've spent much of my adult life moving around the United States because of my job, Thanksgiving these days is usually just me and my son Daniel. We make our favorite holiday dishes, play cards and board games, watch movies, and start decorating for Christmas. Maybe not the Saturday Evening Post sort of Thanksgiving that you'd expect, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
This morning, as I watched the snow fall and tried to concentrate on my current painting in progress, I couldn't stop thinking about what just happened in Ferguson, Missouri. What sort of holiday are Michael Brown's parents and friends having? How are African American families across the country feeling today? I try to imagine what it must be like to be Black in the United States of America when things like this happen, and they seem to happen a lot. It always makes me feel ashamed of being an American, when I usually feel pride. It makes me wonder how the rest of the world sees us. From the outside, gun violence and racism must seem as American as baseball, apple pie and Thanksgiving.
Writing about it helps a little. I've read so much about it, too -- possibly too much. Of all of the articles about Ferguson that I've read, this short piece by Brittney Cooper touched me the most; she made me cry. She writes,
They are undone. We are undone. I am undone. This is what American democracy coming apart at the seams looks like. Our frayed, tattered edges are showing. The emperors are the only ones who can’t see it. Where can we begin so that we don’t end up here?
When faced with this sort of ugliness, with our lack of progress as a nation, I try to make myself feel better by telling myself that things really do eventually get better. Jim Crow did end, for the most part. We did get an African American president (one step forward with Obama not quite countering the twenty steps backward we took with George W. Bush). But when I see news reports of Republican governors, especially in Southern states, doing everything they can to suppress the Black vote and not even having the grace to feel ashamed of doing it, I just feel sick inside.
It's all of a piece, this anger and hatred, gun violence and voter suppression, the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. I wish I understood why this keeps happening in the supposedly greatest country on earth.