FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
July 15, 2019
David Altheide
The Fear Party
Roger Harris
UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Bachelet’s Gift to the US: Justifying Regime Change in Venezuela
John Feffer
Pyongyang on the Potomac
Vincent Kelley
Jeffrey Epstein and the Collapse of Europe
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Hissy-Fit Over Darroch Will Blow a Chill Wind Across Britain’s Embassies in the Middle East
Binoy Kampmark
Juggling with the Authoritarians: Donald Trump’s Diplomatic Fake Book
Dean Baker
The June Jobs Report and the State of the Economy
Michael Hudson – Bonnie Faulkner
De-Dollarizing the American Financial Empire
Kathy Kelly
Remnants of War
B. Nimri Aziz
The Power of Our Human Voice: From Marconi to Woods Hole
Elliot Sperber
Christianity Demands a Corpse 
Weekend Edition
July 12, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Skull of Death: Mass Media, Inauthentic Opposition, and Eco-Existential Reality in a Pre-Fascist Age of Appeasement
T.J. Coles
“Strategic Extremism”: How Republicans and Establishment Democrats Use Identity Politics to Divide and Rule
Rob Urie
Toward an Eco-Socialist Revolution
Gregory Elich
How Real is the Trump Administration’s New Flexibility with North Korea?
Jason Hirthler
The Journalists Do The Shouting
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Pâté Politics in the Time of Trump and Pelosi
Andrew Levine
The Electoral Circus as the End of Its Initial Phase Looms
David Swanson
Earth Over the Brink
Ron Jacobs
Presidential Papers
Robert Hunziker
The Flawed Food Dependency
Dave Lindorff
Defeating the Trump Administration’s Racist, Republican-Rescuing Census Corruption
Martha Rosenberg
Pathologizing Kids, Pharma Style
Kathleen Wallace
Too Horrible to Understand, Too Horrible to Ignore
Ralph Nader
An Unsurpassable Sterling Record of Stamina!
Paul Tritschler
Restricted View: the British Legacy of Eugenics
John Feffer
Trump’s Bluster Diplomacy
Thomas Knapp
Did Jeffrey Epstein “Belong to Intelligence?”
Nicholas Buccola
Colin Kaepernick, Ted Cruz, Frederick Douglass and the Meaning of Patriotism
P. Sainath
It’s Raining Sand in Rayalaseema
Charles Davis
Donald Trump’s Fake Isolationism
Michael Lukas
Delisting Wolves and the Impending Wolf Slaughter
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Shaking Off Capitalism for Ecological Civilization
Julian Vigo
North America’s Opioid Addiction Problem and the Institutional Machinery Keeping It Alive
Russell Rickford
Lights of Liberty Vigil Remarks
Stansfield Smith
Bernie Sanders’ Present Fight against Corporate Rule vs. the Bernie of 1989
Steve Early
A Plant Closing War, Viewed From Inside
Jill Richardson
The Good News About Trump’s Very Bad Environmental Speech
John Kendall Hawkins
The Language of Languishing: One Kurd’s Journey Into Mythopoesis
Monika Zgustova
Russia and the Manipulation of the Past
Binoy Kampmark
Out of Kilter: National Security and Press Freedoms in Australia
Robert P. Alvarez
Return of the Poll Tax
David Macaray
A Hideous Ending
David Barsamian
The Slide to War with Iran: An Interview with Nader Hashemi
Graham Peebles
Breaking the Spiral of Hate and Intolerance
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail