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Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving, the Via Negativa


Today is Thanksgiving. It is a secular holiday; nevertheless Thanksgiving is sacred to most Americans.

Many of us write reflections on this day, posting memes that express to the world the things we are thankful for.

That is nice, conscientious, appropriate. We have much to be thankful for as Americans, and we should never forget it.

A heartfelt expression of gratitude is always welcome, even the gratitude that is expressed in general for the many things we receive from those we love, by whom we are loved, for the things we are given that make our lives more comfortable, more challenging and more meaningful.

It is never inappropriate to thankful.

To express gratitude is to make one’s self humble; it is to acknowledge our reliance on others for making us into the people we have become.

Be humble.

Therefore, be gracious.

Be thankful…insofar as you are able, you will be following the way of the wise.

In theology there is something known as the apophatic tradition. In this tradition it is understood that God, by whatever name you call the creator the universe (of all that is and all we are), that God dwells in a mode beyond human understanding.

This tradition tell us that God is shrouded in mystery, described as the cloud of un-knowing.

According to the apophatic tradition, we are not able speak in the affirmative about what or who God is, because God, the eternal and infinite, God will not be circumscribed by finite constructs of human thought and language.

We are not able to offer positive assertions about the nature of the Divine, there is only the via negative, the way of understanding who God is by stating what God is not.

In keeping with the via negativa, I am in the custom of forgoing the traditional giving-of-thanks, even though I am truly grateful for my friends and compatriots, I am grateful for everyone in my life, grateful for all of those who inspire me, who love me, and are patient with me everyday.

I am grateful for you.

For this annual reflection I follow the via negative, the negative way, and express what I am not thankful for.

I am not thankful that there is no peace in the world,

In Yemen where the Saudia Arabia and Iran are fighting a proxy war, and hundreds of thousands of Children are on the brink of starvation. I am not thankful for this.

In Palestine, where the occupied territories continue to suffer under apartheid, where millions of people live in cities and towns that are in reality, nothing more than prisons, and the walls of their homes are the walls of a jail.

I am not thankful for the Turkish invasion of Northern Syria, I am not thankful that the President of the United States opted to abandon our allies the Syrian Kurds.

I am not thankful that in America we are divided by class, culture, color, by a pretender to the office of President.

I am not thankful for the dismal failures of our elected representatives who cannot discern their obligation to oppose Donald Trump or hold him accountable for the crimes he committed to become president, and the crimes he is committing to keep alive his hope of retaining it.

I am not thankful for their collective failure of Congress to protect the constitution, or for the individual members who have forgotten their oath of office.

I am not thankful that we have sold out our national interests to the likes of Vladimir Putin, or that our president dances on a string like a puppet for him.

I am not thankful for the failures of civilization to address our deepest problems such as the existential crises of climate change, destroying communities around the world, including the recent fires in California that have destroyed thousands of homes, killing dozens of people.

I am not thankful for our failures of leadership.

I am not thankful for white supremacy, and domestic terrorism.

I am not thankful for terrorism anywhere. I am not thankful for the religious fundamentalism that drives it. I am thankful neither for the fear that spawns it, nor for the fear it generates

I am not thankful that there is hunger in our bountiful world. I am not thankful for the greed and the sloth and the bad public policy that fosters it.

I am not thankful that my friends have to beg on the internet to be financially supported when in the natural course of their oives they come down with cancer, and other debilitating illnesses. I am not thankful for the gaping holes in the social safety net.

I am not thankful for willful ignorance, for anti-rational, anti-intellectual, demagoguery. I am not thankful for the cultural relativism that has promoted it, for anti-objectivism, for liars.

I am not thankful for Donald Trump. I am not thankful for my fellow Americans who voted for him, his allies in congress or anywhere who continue to support.

I am not thankful for the media outlets, the reporters, the editorialists who failed to take him seriously. I am not thankful that they abdicated their responsibilities as the gatekeepers of our society, as the so called 4th Estate, and allowed his criminal regime to hold the seat of power.

I am not thankful that they have not collectively figured out a way to redress their failures.

I am not thankful and I am ashamed everyday because of his antics as the President of the United States, for his capitulation to murderous regimes, and strong-men anywhere who Donald Trump thinks he can profit from at some future point beyond his presidency, I am not thankful he has sold out our interests to them.

I am not thankful for his corruption of the rule of law.

I am not thankful for the on-going and continuous assault on the working class, the threats that are levied against the average citizen in the spheres of public policy like health care, and taxes.

I am not thankful for our government’s continuous assault on our population of immigrants and refugees, for the way we have abdicated our responsibility to care for the asylum seeker.

I am not thankful for these things.

I am not thankful that there is so much more to add to this list.

I am not thankful for the shortsightedness of liberals and progressives who cannot stand united in the face of the social forces that threaten us all.

Did I say that I am not thankful for white supremacists? I did, but let me say it again…I am not thankful for them or their apologists, both their soft supporters and their ardent advocates. I am not thankful that they have a seat at the table in the administration of Donald J. Trump.

I am not thankful for them.


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