FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sharing the Turkey

by LINH DINH

Thanksgiving is the occasion or requirement, not necessarily welcome, that one eats with many other people, while looking at their faces even. As a contemporary American, I take many meals alone while staring at a medium, which in my case is the computer and, before that, the newspaper. I eat in silence and darkness. It hasn’t always been this way.

My first Thanksgiving, I had just turned twelve and had been in the US all of six months. I was living in Tacoma with my father, kid brother and a woman who would morph into my stepmother. Even then, we hated each other. For $150 a month, we had a one bedroom apartment not far from my school, McKinley Elementary. My brother and I slept in sleeping bags on the living room floor, with our treasure a tiny black and white TV, a tutor in American culture and English.

Each afternoon, the magic box would usher in Bugs Bunny, then Shirley Temple or the Three Stooges, to be followed by Jimmy Snuka. No more dismal or heroic singing, as on Vietnamese television. No more body counts or political speeches. This is America, boys and girls, where everything is goofy and fun!

Though they hardly knew us, the people next door generously invited us to Thanksgiving dinner. It wasn’t a family but two young couples, with the men bearded. We ate on the floor. I had just learned, “May I,” so I tried out, “May I have the corn, please.” This linguistic feeler elicited a compliment from one of our sweet hosts, which flattered me. In Vietnam, I had studied French from kindergarten onward, but since I had no need to speak it, I never owned any French, not even a mouthful, yet here I was, already careening forward with a new, reckless tongue that I wagged about like some lashing weapon.

For whatever it’s worth, it’s true that Americans do say “thank you” and “sorry” quite readily, at least much more often than Vietnamese, and I’m only talking about ordinary people, of course, not any official. The American government should apologize constantly, but never does. Better yet, it should cease and desist from all the looting, carnage and destruction that require that it gets on its knees and begs forgiveness from man, gods and gaia.

So what am I suggesting? I’m saying that Americans are for most part kind and generous, unlike its murderous government. I’m claiming that our 99% are mostly fair and decent, unlike the 1% that rule and represent us. Working against humanity and country, this 1% bring shame and dishonor to our name.

In 1976, my father decided that we should join my aunt in Houston, so he drove us 2,400 miles on his Chevette, the cheapest on the market. In the middle of the Sonoran desert, this crappy car died, so strangers had to come to our aid. This was before the cell phone, so a passing motorist had to use a payphone to call for a tow truck, and, even more incredibly, a mechanic at this garage invited us into his home for the night, since we couldn’t afford a motel. My brother and I played with his two boys, and his wife made burgers for us all. My father did give them some money, maybe $20, as a token thank you, but their kindness and graciousness were truly marvelous, though at the time, as a kid, I didn’t fully appreciate it.

In 1983, during my second year in art school, I had another memorable Thanksgiving dinner, this time at the home of a professor, Boris Putterman. I had started out calling Boris “Mr. Putterman,” but he insisted on “Boris,” which is the informal, American way. Boris liked my progress as a young painter, and also my confidence, which later he would discover, to his dismay if not disgust, to be an unwarranted cockiness. Stoked by a combustion of social, intellectual, alcoholic, dope, speed and sexual awakenings, I even declared to Boris, “You should never say sorry!” His response, “Where did you get that?! You should always say you’re sorry.” Life would kick my ass good upon leaving school, however, so I got my comeuppance in ample dosage. Whether in an individual or nation, hubris is a distortion that demands correction, for sooner or later the proper perspective and proportion will reassert themselves.

It’s strange but from all the conversations of that night at Boris’, the only bit that’s stuck in my mind was uttered by his mother, “I don’t see how people can eat chicken wings. There’s no meat on them!” Instead of fading, this will only mean more and more in the years ahead, and not just to me but nearly all Americans, so be thankful for what’s left, but unless some are made to feel sorry very soon, the rest of us will be kicked in the ass.

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a just released novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.

 

 

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
Binoy Kampmark
Cyclone Watch in Australia
Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail