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The Greedy and the Needy


Usually, my neighbors here in the condo complex are friendly and cooperative. During last year’s harsh winter, we worked outside, removing snow, chatting, and helping each other. During association meetings, we discuss community issues. Occasionally, there’s discord—recyclables, pet policy, etc. At one of the meetings, a woman, with an able-bodied husband, said, “You mean I’m going to have to take recyclables across the street?” I commented that this is about our environment, one of the most urgent problems we face.

I suppose that if you asked 15 people to choose the country’s most important dilemma, you’d hear 15 different answers.

Recently, a friend and I were having a conversation about immigration.

He said, “I know a woman who couldn’t get a job at a fast food restaurant because she doesn’t speak Spanish.”

I said: “Well, NAFTA and CAFTA have made it impossible for people in certain countries to make a living, so they come here.”

We agreed that capital is able to cross borders freely in search of the highest rate of return.

Yet, so many Americans have no problem with the building of sky-high fences to block “aliens” and “illegals” from seeking to eke out a better living in this land of increasingly questionable opportunity.

Usually, I write about peace and its opposite, conquest-oriented carnage. Sometimes, I present a piñata, a tumbling forth of all about which I angst. This week, I’ve moved from the bulging fridge to the countertop to the sink to the stove, many times. As the turkey shares a chill with dishes I’ve prepared for a visit from my children, I think of families, here and thousands of miles away.

I ran earlier today, down the hill past Williams-Sonoma’s open door. I could smell spices: nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger in, perhaps, mulled cider. The aroma of Thanksgiving. I, too, mulled: over the unemployment rate and the underemployed and all who have lost their jobs, homes, their health insurance, and hope. Quantitative easing bailed out banksters but not the people.

Our military budget is a trillion a year. We spend 12 billion a month on two wars of occupation. Those who aren’t related to a soldier who’s died or been severely injured really don’t think that much about war, or about the people our troops are brainwashed to destroy.

I wonder about civilians in the countries we’ve invaded. After reading that in some areas of Afghanistan nobody even knows about 9/11, I can’t help but juxtapose this information with the nationalism of people, here, and the Islamophobia that leads people to oppose the building of mosques with shouts of, “Never forget.”

Interlude: I knew a married woman who fell madly in love with another man. She remarked to her husband that he and the children would really like the new, significant other. Couldn’t wait for them to meet. I’ve seen men behave this way, as well. Seems they’re so intoxicated by their own selfish happiness, they are unable to see the pain they inflict, the psychic violence of their actions. They’re residing in a magical realm where their truth becomes: if it feels so good, it can’t be wrong. They don’t just expect understanding; they, also, demand support and, well, gratitude. It’s as if their exhilaration translates to something like, “Everybody will be so happy, they’ll bestow flowers.” Like those flowers the grateful Iraqis were going to present to our troops.

This is an illustration of hubris, a microcosm of Ameri-thought, like manifest destiny, the gift of democracy, Christianity, and even ruggedly ugly individualism. American exceptionalism.

Thanksgiving is beyond strange. I can’t help but feel guilty. I have so much. And I have a greedy need to be with my family. Need? The needy. There are millions; the number grows daily.

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Her email address is


Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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