Thanksgiving is a day inspired by a group of refugees – the Pilgrims. It is hard for me to heap admiration on the Pilgrims. They were a group escaping from England to achieve their own religious freedom. But they persecuted those who did not follow their own crabbed version. Harold Meyerson today has an excellent Washington Post column (see here) in which he draws attention to the irony that Republicans on a day inspired by refugees are doing their best to deport immigrants and prevent refugees from arriving on their shores. Narrow as the religion of the Pilgrims might have been, it was not a religion of personal fear in this world and certainly not a religion of selfishness.
Nonetheless, I am even more drawn to E.J. Dionne’s wonderful column today. See here. Thanksgiving is a day for gratitude. And he says that “Gratitude requires the swift, the strong, the wise, the wealthy, the brilliant and the learned (or those whom the world recognizes as such) to beware of their temptation to arrogance. No matter how hard we might have toiled or how much we might have struggled, the bounty we enjoy is inescapably linked to unearned blessings.” He also recognizes that those who are not among the privileged are the most likely to display the virtue of gratitude – gratitude for life itself and all the blessings it brings. Avoiding arrogance, I think, requires the recognition that the poor among us are for the most part not there because they are lazy or undeserving (there, for example, was not an epidemic of laziness in 2008), but for a variety of reasons ranging from the structure of the economy to aspects of personal health.
It requires the recognition that when we demonize others (as I did in the first paragraph) that human beings cannot be reduced to their worst aspect or actions and that we ourselves are not without serious fault. It requires us to forgive others, but also to cultivate the ability to forgive ourselves.