Thanks for Nothing
Later this week, like a cruelly ironic cherry on the calamity sundae that is 2020 thus far, here comes that son of a bitch, Thanksgiving. Even in a normal year, its Teflon status as one of the most cherished holidays on the calendar can only be explained as the result of selective group amnesia. We seem ever-willing to forget how lousy things are for one day for the sake of tradition. But this year in particular, Thanksgiving really seems to be mocking us.
Oh, I know: We're supposed to count our blessings, smell the roses, and be grateful that things aren't worse than they are. And yes, I am grateful that things aren't worse than they are, because at this point the only thing left on the things-could-be-worse list is the apocalypse. And I don't think we're quite ready to handle that just yet...though this year has certainly been a hell of a warm-up. Still, you should know by now that "The Weekly Curmudgeon" isn't the blog to read if you're trying to look on the bright side. We don't do that here.
Obligating ourselves to feel thankful with all that's going on at this precise point in history feels like some sort of twisted, Stockholm Syndrome, "Why are you hitting yourself?" "Thank you, sir, may I have another?" gaslighting mind game. Thankful? Thankful for all the lost jobs, lost loved ones, and gained weight? What about the surreal time warp we've been in for most of the year (a witty friend of the Curmudgeon has astutely dubbed it "Marchvember")? What about being stuck in our homes, and all the closed-up restaurants, bars, theatres, cinemas, museums, and stores, some of which may be shuttered forever? Yeah...thanks for that. My heart is just overflowing with gratitude.
It's especially hard to feel thankful with our country in its current historic political turmoil. I believe we'd be a lot more thankful if we had that over with. And for those who enjoy the traditional yearly family gathering, there's bad news for you as well. This year, in-person gatherings are death traps. You can literally die from communing with loved ones. So if that warm feeling of togetherness was one of the things you were going to be thankful for...well...that one's gone too.
I hate this year, and I hate Thanksgiving's mocking, smug, holier-than-thou attitude. I resent its ridiculously ill-timed arrival. And I for one refuse to be pressured into lying about feeling (to phrase it with the utmost diplomacy) perhaps a bit less thankful than in years past. Still, the pandemic's attendant isolation has caused a dip in acts of social stupidity and impropriety, which is a welcome change. And of course, closed establishments can't post misspelled signs. With theatres dark, there have been zero incidents of rude patrons arriving late, talking during a performance, then walking out on the curtain call. Meanwhile, the significant reduction in interpersonal interaction has been an absolute balm for the soul. So, yes, fine, that's at least something. I suppose I must concede I'm grateful for those things.
Still, I'm going to forego Thanksgiving this year. And I don't believe that's such sacrilege. The holiday has questionable origins anyway, commemorating, as it does, a meal that white settlers allegedly hosted on land that wasn't theirs as a way of bonding with the natives before driving them out. That's like if someone invited you to a party at your own house, then forced you to move into your own garage. Deplorable immorality aside, it was certainly not the most gracious way for the pilgrims to introduce themselves to the neighborhood. Maybe we should replace this stale old tradition with a day—just a day, mind you—of deeply indulgent lamentation, when we allow ourselves to admit, without judgement, just how damned trying things have been. What say you? I suspect that "Lamentsgiving" might be much healthier overall than straining to concoct gratitude while stuffing our guts to the point of pain. If ever there was a year to make the switch, this would be it. Of course, we'd have to change the traditional main dish to grouse.