I can’t even imagine going to bed with my mate, in my own place, only to have an entire team of police break through my door and gun me down in the night. Somehow they blame him, for attempting to protect me with a legal gun. They’ve yet to hold anyone else even slightly accountable.
Okay, I can in fact imagine, but not to me—because I am white.
A guy goes running, as many do, as I do, only he encounters several good ole boys, and now he’s dead. The good ole boys will be judged by “their peers”—a bunch of good ole boys.
A seventeen-year-old walks the streets of Kenosha with an AR-15 and the police joke around with him. He murders several people, and the police let him walk away! Tamir Rice got all of two seconds before he was slaughtered for holding a toy gun, and he was twelve. “He looked older,” they said back then. “Poor Kyle is just a kid trying to protect the town,” they say now.
Have I mentioned that I grew up all of ten miles from where Rittenhouse committed his murders? Ten. Miles. I’ve walked those streets. I’m sure my parents felt it was perfectly safe. But that was before the issue of race blew everything up.
I am angry. Very, very angry. All the time.
I’ll be honest: when tasked with writing a piece about whatever it is in life I give thanks for, I didn’t think I could do it.
This is not to suggest that there isn’t plenty for which I am personally thankful. I am quite lucky, I have all the “stuff” in life one could hope for—a great family, long friendships, everyone healthy, and emotional and material comforts. All those people and things we tend to praise around a Thanksgiving table. I am grateful; don’t get me wrong.
These things are important, but they are not the ultimate bedrock on which happiness and self-fulfillment are founded. There is something deeper, more integral, a raison d’être that allows us to continue even without those things for which we typically give thanks. Although we humans have failed hard, repeatedly, and consistently for many, many years, we’ve also accomplished some glorious and amazing things: sending people to the moon. Modern medicine. The ability to communicate with people all over the world, just as I am now. Miracles, really. While they don’t make us better people, they’re still impressive and indicative of what we can do.
So what is this metaphorical sun? What makes the sky light up in a giant, glowing halo for me? The people who, in spite of it all—the greed, the power grabs, hatred and murder, all our many human failings—love one another.
This thing that keeps us getting out of bed each morning, putting one foot in front of the next, even in the face of utter injustice or unyielding fear or white-hot anger . . . some might call it God. Others, insanity. Survival instincts, perhaps. Whatever it is, however we might define it, it is bigger than each of us individual beings. It’s a sense of something beyond us, all-encompassing, to which we belong and contribute and make the world better, even if just in fits and starts.
It is this thing, I believe, that ultimately makes us happiest and offers us cause to give thanks if we can just get close enough to it to have some sense of our place in it and faith that it’s moving us forward. I am not religious but that is, I suppose, why so many worship so fervently and have for so many millennia.
I have worshiped the sun as the source of all life on earth, and for much of my life self-defined as a humanist, but the latter has been a real struggle in the face of everything I’ve learned about our species over the years. The unquenchable thirst for power seems to drive far more of us, more often, than altruistic traits. And yet I get up each morning. I keep on putting one foot in front of the other. And despite the heavy clouds that so often seem to darken my vision, the sun insists on poking through.
So what is this metaphorical sun? What makes the sky light up in a giant, glowing halo for me? Honestly? It’s our human family. Seriously! I’m not being obsequious and I don’t really mean just OHF, but rather the people who, despite all of it—the greed, the power grabs, hatred and murder, all our many human failings—love one another.
It’s said that white people can’t grasp what it’s like to be Black in America; to some degree, I’m sure that’s true, but I also agree with Christienne L. Hinz in Fieldnotes on Allyship: human emotions extend to all, and white folks have seen enough to understand the pain they’re inflicting. I might not feel the depth and all the nuances of your pain, but I hurt with you—I get it. So I am very thankful that you’re willing to look past my hue.
I don’t know most of our readers as intimately, of course. I might not know names or faces, ages or genders, the least bit of your demographics, but nonetheless, I can say with absolute certainty: you are exceptional people. You are givers. You look beyond yourself and into the hearts of others.
At a moment of history when people are digging their heels in and shutting their eyes tight against the existence of the injustices Black, Indigenous, and People of Color endure, you’re opening yours wide. You choose to visit a website with a very narrow, explicit remit of demonstrating how we can all improve at loving one another. When time is precious, as it typically is, you choose to spend your time reading about how we can make this world a better place. And our numbers are growing! While most forums just seem to expand the hate, OHF readers are proof that there are pockets swelling with unrelenting love across the globe.
When this world leaves me weary and dispirited, you give me hope in humankind. So I thank you; you are my raison d’être and I’ll raise my glass to you this Thanksgiving.
Let me end with a poem by Jesse, a great writer and great human who somehow continues to get even better at both. His words sum up my sentiments beautifully.
At the centre of who we are
a heart beats with love.
Caged under skin and bone
we feel it thump
each second of our existence
with an unwavering ambivalence
at the limits of our understanding.
In doing so
the heart remembers its function
is to give rhythm to being
and to respond at a pace
to which we can dance.
This is how we exist
in between the spaces of
as students practising
the mystery and art
of what the heart comprehends.
Happy Thanksgiving to all,
Our Human Family, Managing Editor