FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sharing the Turkey

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.

 

 

More articles by:

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.

July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
Michael Collins
The Affirmative Action Silo
Andrew Levine
Tipping Points
Geoff Dutton
Fair and Balanced Opinion at the New York Times
Ajamu Baraka
Cultural and Ideological Struggle in the US: a Final Comment on Ocasio-Cortez
David Rosen
The New McCarthyism: Is the Electric Chair Next for the Left?
Ken Levy
The McConnell Rule: Nasty, Brutish, and Unconstitutional
George Wuerthner
The Awful Truth About the Hammonds
Robert Fisk
Will Those Killed by NATO 19 Years Ago in Serbia Ever Get Justice?
Robert Hunziker
Three Climatic Monsters with Asteroid Impact
Ramzy Baroud
Europe’s Iron Curtain: The Refugee Crisis is about to Worsen
Nick Pemberton
A Letter For Scarlett JoManDaughter
Marilyn Garson
Netanyahu’s War on Transcendence 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail