For which I am thankful

Nov 25, 2009 at 6:00 am

I am sitting outside Heine Brothers Coffee Shop, watching the cars chug along Bardstown Road, trying to make a list.

It is Monday morning, the 23rd of November, the temperature is 52 degrees, and despite the canopy of clouds, it feels warm. I cannot reasonably say I am thankful for this warming, because it is unsettling for its unusualness in this time of year, although it is making today more pleasant than it was a year ago. I am not a scientist or a meteorologist, so I cannot with authority attribute this warming to anything other than pure happenstance. But I am thankful that our world is populated with people whose business it is to interpret such changes in our weather patterns, for it seems — beyond God or any kind of spiritual understanding — that we should know the effect we are having on our planet, simply by living the way a lot of us do. That is, if it’s not just a clandestine e-mail campaign to scare us.

The history of our country is built upon conflict and revolution. Our forbears were imperialists and plunderers, which makes Thanksgiving a difficult holiday to get behind in the traditional sense. There is a simplistic narrative that says, in part, we have the natives of this land to thank for teaching us how to survive long enough to eliminate them. It is a history worth understanding because we tend to repeat it, although sometimes in subtler ways.

In Israel, America has a Middle East proxy that is pillaging a people and land to which it has only lately laid claim, invoking religion as justification and enjoying the financial and political backing of a superpower to do so. The imbalance between the Palestinian and Israeli casualties of this conflict makes it strikingly clear who is the underdog, and there is alarmingly little change on the horizon. I am thankful for the international constituency that recognizes this, that continues to work for a change in American and Israeli policy in Gaza and the West Bank so that some peace can be arranged. I am also thankful for those on both sides who have the perspective to see that the home team isn’t always the winner.

Here in the West, our accounts have been plundered by bankers left unconstrained, gone awry, and finally hoisted upon their own petards. These financial imperialists were not punished but floated again, first by the Bush administration and then by President Obama, both using the same tyrannical logic that these institutions were “too big to fail.” I am thankful to be part of a community where the small-scale economy is paid due attention, where the pastiche of local businesses and institutions is strong enough to resist sometimes-great pressure. It makes place worth time.

This is the first year in American history when an African-American has been president. I am thankful to live in a country where the majority of voters can leave behind a history of racism, if just for a moment, and pronounce to the world that we are not just white imperialists, but imperialists who know the benefits of a good culture war.

I am thankful for Sarah Palin. It’s good to know where the low watermark is.

I appreciate the locals, too, trying to make a kingdom for themselves and their ilk, and that there are enough people with the guts to push back when the blade swings too close. Our legal team would like me to leave it at that.

I am thankful LEO has a good attorney. Conflict, of course, is the root of our republic.

Most of all, I am thankful that this city — like the country and world at large — still has citizens with enough sense to pitch in for the whole, even as we cling to an ill-fated lust for rugged individualism, that bankrupt American myth. We tend to be better when we give more than take. When the great collector comes at the end of the line, I doubt most of us will be able to pay our own bills in full.



A local note: LEO’s annual manual, UR Here, has just hit the streets. In it you’ll find some collected wisdom of our city, from dining and entertainment to history, culture and the arts. It is a must-read for newcomers and veterans alike. And it’s free.