Sunday, November 25, 2007

One last Thanksgiving thought

Chicano families come in all colors, sizes, shapes and tendencies. My own is scattered across Texas and the West, with my one daughter finishing school in Syracuse, NY. My wife's siblings and their families are usually who I spend holidays with. In some ways they're typical of the heights and breadth of where some Chicanos have "arrived" in this society, with successful careers and the accompanying foibles of American families.

Coming from a poorer background, I'm still amazed each year by the seeming opulence in their Xmas gift giving. NFL, Nike, Nikon, Macey's, and Bratz owe much of their bottom line to what appears under this family tree; there's no evidence of economic crises or recession to be found.

I wonder how many of them have multiple credit cards and how many of those are maxed out, how many have ARMs about to reset to usury levels, how many are too few paychecks close to bankruptcy. Worse, I wonder how many would take failures of the U.S. economy personally, and blame themselves for a layoff, cutback or an employer going under. At least like in many Chicano families, they have a tradition of harboring potentially homeless family members.

And as in many families, each year a prayer is uttered at the Thanksgiving meal, inevitably thanking God, Jesus and religion for their bounty. It always bothers me--not just as an unbeliever--that they relinquish their accomplishments to an institution that's historically profited from Chicano-Mexican faith, while they likewise endure the burdensome repercussions of that faith in the form of denying girls, even women, the right of choice.

Anyway, this year I penned the piece below, to read at the family dinner. I wasn't able to include something about the Iraq War, the volunteer soldiers whose lives, minds and bodies are being ruined at the same time millions of Iraqis pay the price of the U.S. invasion. Nor did I say anything about the millions, if not billions, of people who justifiably hate us for what we've allowed loose on the world.

I don't say these words were overwhelmingly well received, although several thanked me for them. I share them here as an after-Thanksgiving thought, in the hopes it'll inspire others to come up with their own, more appropriate, messages for holiday "prayers" in these times.

What Is Thanksgiving about?

When you're surrounded by delicious foods made by family and friends, it's tempting to think Thanksgiving is about stuffing your belly till it's ready to burst.

When you've got a good-paying job, it's easy to think Thanksgiving is about getting ready to spend way too much money on material things to overflow the space under the Xmas tree.

When you're sitting in a house that's warm and inviting, it's comfortable to think Thanksgiving is about being grateful for a fancy TV or new video game.

When you've got the cash to eat in restaurants and drink in bars whenever you want, it's simple to think Thanksgiving is about how special you are to deserve all of this.

And when you have a good car that gets you to work every day, it's exciting to think Thanksgiving is about wondering how soon you can get an even fancier new one.

I don't know if Thanksgiving is about being grateful we're not one of the hungry, unemployed, homeless, unlucky children or adults who have to walk the icy streets to school or work. It's probably not just about remembering those poor souls for one minute and feeling a little sorry for them.

Maybe Thanksgiving is about thanking our parents, wives, husbands and kids for giving us the sense to take care of our bodies, to keep ourselves from getting into debt and going into bankruptcy, to keep us from loving special things more than special people, to keep us from becoming addicts or drunks, and to keep ourselves safe on the road and in our daily lives. That way, we're here next year--safe, healthy, comfortable, and at peace--to give even more thanks for whatever Thanksgiving is about.

Rudy Ch. Garcia

1 comment:

Lisa Alvarado said...

Thank you, Rudy for the reminder that's it really isn't the turkey, the cash, the surface things....those things don't fill the depth of your soul and keep you keeping on.

It's familia (however you define it), it's friends, (a blessing to count each day), and for me, it's those moments when I can be clear, outside the buzz of the world and remember that there is a Spirit that nourishes me the most deeply.