What’s There to be Thankful for When You’re Running on Empty

By: Karla  Fetrow

It’s difficult to feel thankful these days.  A pall has spread over the earth, a darkness that whispers with rumors of wars, corruption in the highest places, financial ruin; rumors that once substantiated by facts, were whisked away, denied, or shamelessly ignored.  And the pall grows darker in a winter of poverty, a season of unblushing violence, a year when even false promises have been abandoned, a year of dissolution and discouragement.

 

It has also been a year of change.  It wasn’t the change promised us when we first began to look around and realize we were speeding headlong into economic disaster and something needed to be done to avert it.  It was not the change promised to us for an environmentally friendly society, equality in jobs, education and adequate health care.  It was a change that began with some very simple observations; nothing was working; not the bi-partisan vote, not the committees and organizations representing public petition, not the fair administration of the courts.  What would work against a controlled media, blatant invasion of privacy, and authorities with no interest in the common good of the public?  Only the unified voice of the affected.

It’s not to be supposed the idea to look for the true voices of leadership among the dispossessed masses, the disillusioned and disenfranchised came suddenly and all at once.  Decades of accepting media sources as the true measurement of public support was not going to be shrugged off as quickly as taking a cold shower, nor the mentality that there must be pyramids of power and authority, with the leaders on top as the winners.  It took the digestion of information from countless sources, the comprehension of cultural choices and a deepening regard for the meaning of equality.

In Alaska, it’s widely suspected that a homeless man in Anchorage was the first true occupier.  After a raid on homeless camps in early summer, authorized by Mayor Dan Sullivan, John Martin decided he wanted his belongings back and sought an audience with the Mayor.  His request was refused.  Several more attempts brought the same result.  He then resolved to sit on the court house steps until the worthy representative of the city found time to see him.  This did not suit Mayor Sullivan very well at all, and he immediately sought to make it illegal to sit or recline on city sidewalks.  Unfortunately for Mayor Sullivan however, the public is a little more sympathetic to the homeless man than to the Mayor, and John Martin continues to seek his audience with the distinguished court.

His was an idea, and ideas have a habit of occurring simultaneously or falling into place with other problem solving minds very quickly.  John Martin had a practical solution.  If you can’t get anyone to listen to you, stay in one spot until someone notices you.  It was bound to occur to others sooner or later as people began to realize, “I’m talking.  I’m speaking words, I’m tapping them down in my blog rolls, but I might just as well be speaking a foreign language.  Nobody is listening.”

A Day of Thanks @2011 Karla Fetrow

That no one is listening was mainly an illusion created by the media still industriously trying to capture an audience with election races that had lost their appeal and Hollywood news that had lost its glamor.  The media wasn’t listening, and neither were the recipients of the complaints.  However, the dispossessed were listening.  The jobless and the working class who felt their jobs in jeopardy or their taxes unwisely spent were listening.  The veterans of pointless foreign wars were listening.  Most importantly, the youth whose future hung in balance, were listening.  Occupation Wall Street or a sister activity was inevitable, as well as the viral, simultaneous response across the globe.

It’s difficult to give thanks when you’re not even sure if the occasion is appropriate.  Thanksgiving Day is not an official, time honored religious celebration.  It’s not an event that takes place at the same time, with variations in customs, the world over.  It’s celebrated on a National level, with the emphasis placed on a colony that had managed to survive a year of crisis; isolation, building from the ground up, hunger, disease and exposure to the elements of a new climate.  Even the politically correct wonder as to how appropriate Thanksgiving is, considering what had happened in the events of history to the friendly neighbors who had taught these early colonialists how to hunt, fish and plant crops.  In recent years, guilty consciences were given an avenue for Thanksgiving relief through the invention of Black Friday; scrap the big meal with family, relatives and friends, and begin your shopping frenzy early for one colossal holiday; Christmas.

A feast for the humble @2011 Karla Fetrow

 

A day set aside for Thanksgiving isn’t profitable to any great degree for any industry except food sales, isn’t a customary religious celebration, universally practiced and there seems to be a lot of confusion as to who to thank and what to be thankful for.  At a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll usually find the head of the table giving thanks to a spiritual benefactor for the ability of the family members to come together once more, for their health and for whatever blessings had been bestowed.  That’s a good start.  Even among the non-religious, family bonds are precious.  There is no grief quite as enduring, no absence quite as missed as the loss of a family member.  The families that give thanks while the unit is intact have memories to share for years to come and draw strength from their unity through the hard times.

Yet, not everyone lives in a strong family unit.  Life styles, alienation, divorce, internal conflicts have dissolved many family structures, leaving only fragments struggling to find something on an official food gorging holiday.  For the economically sinking population, that Thanksgiving meal could mean the first time they had felt full in months.  What is there then, to be thankful for?

This is a new era, an era that began with an idea, and like all ideas, there is no true way of knowing what shape that era will take or the direction it will go in, but it is an era that has begun with a heightened sense of equality.  We have then, perhaps to thank the first visionaries of equal worth, the first academicians to craft this into writing, the first communities to demonstrate and support the individual values that contribute to the whole.  We have those to thank who first understood the very human right to pursue happiness, to gainful employment, regardless of religion, color or creed.

Family Values @2011 Karla Fetrow

We have those to thank who understand that freedom of the press is not just a way to gain fame and riches by publishing for a favored few, that it is a valuable commodity for exchanging information, for sharing cultural norms, for vacationing a moment in a far away land, rambling through an adventure and for speaking the truth when the truth is necessary.  We have those to thank who have risked their reputations, endangered their lives, were imprisoned and vilified while seeking to present the truth.

We have those to thank who have chosen to sit on the steps and sidewalks until they are heard, for without them, these freedoms our ancestors worked so hard to earn, and which the world waits breathlessly to expand, are just pieces of paper, crumpled and thrown in the trash can for a more convenient world of controls, manipulations and materialistic values.  Each day, they risk their lives, they risk their well-being, they jeopardize their positions in society, and yet they stay.

We have also to thank the youth coming out of the wilderness to take their own future firmly in hand.  The child learns from the parent all that he can, and then comes the day when he teaches the parent.  This day is coming.  We can’t say exactly what this era will bring.  The circumstances of our global situation is comparable to, but not quite like, any other.  Never before have we had the rapport of instant communication.  Never before has a movement universally decided to find its spokes people, its direction from among its numbers instead of an hierarchy of authorities and leaders.  But it will be unique, and the youth are what will carry it into the future.

It’s possible Thanksgiving, as a National holiday, is on its way out, crippled under the frantic glare of preparing for the real holiday.  It’s possible it isn’t really all that convenient.  Yet, what if this day, marked by internal conflict on an International scale, mired in poverty and fear, is actually the first day of a new beginning?  What if a year from now, we all look back and realize how far we’ve come instead of measuring how much more is left to go, and we are thankful for the men, women and children who have braced their shoulders against the wheel and pushed?  It’s a whimsical thought, inspired by an idea, the idea that we can change the future if we really tried, that we could become more equal and equalizing, giving fair value to each others abilities, skills and production.  While the National holiday celebrating the survival of a colony that in turn, behaved quite poorly toward its hosts might be on its way out, what if another type of thankfulness took its place?  Perhaps in our future world, so full of hope, so courageous, so erstwhile, there will be a Universal day of Thanksgiving for the warriors of today.

About karlsie

Some great perversity of nature decided to give me a tune completely out of keeping with the general symphony; possibly from the moment of conception. I learned to read and speak almost simultaneously. The blurred and muffled world I heard through my first five years of random nerve loss deafness suddenly came alive with the clarity of how those words sounded on paper. I had been liberated for communications. I decided there was nothing more wonderful than writing. It was easier to write than carefully modulate my speech for correct pronunciation, and it was easier to read than patiently follow the movements of people’s lips to learn what they were saying. It was during that dawning time period, while I slowly made the connection that there weren’t that many other people who heard the way I did, halfway between sound and music, half in deafness, that I began to understand that the tune I was following wasn’t quite the same as that of my classmates. I was just a little different. General education taught me not only was I just a little isolated from my classmates, my home was just a little isolated from the outside world. I was born in Alaska, making me part of one of the smallest, quietest minorities on earth. I decided I could live with this. What I couldn’t live with was discovering a few years later, in the opening up of the pipeline, which coincided with my first year of junior college, that there were entire communities of people; more than I could possibly imagine; living impossibly one on top of another in vast cities. It wasn’t even the magnitude of this vision that inspired me so much as the visitors who came from these populous regions and seemed to possess a knowledge so great and secretive I could never learn it in any book. I became at once, very conscious of how rural I was and how little I knew beyond the scope of my environment. I decided it was time to travel. The rest is history; or at least, the content of my stories. I traveled... often to college campuses, dropping in and out of school until one fine day by chance I’d fashioned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. I’ve worked a couple of newspapers, had a few poems and stories tossed around in various small presses, never receiving a great deal of money, which I’m assured is the norm for a writer. I spent ten years in Mexico, watching the peso crash. There is some obscure reason why I did this, tightening up my belt and facing hunger, but I believe at the time I said it was for love. Here I am, back home, in my beloved Alaska. I’ve learned somewhat of a worldly viewpoint; at least I like to flatter myself that way. I’ve also learned my rural roots aren’t so bad after all. I work in a small, country store. Every day I greet the same group of local customers, but make no mistake. My store isn’t a scene out of Andy Griffith. The people who enter the establishment, which also includes showers, laundry and movie rentals, are miners, oil workers, truck drivers, construction engineers, dog sled racers and carpenters. Sometimes, on the liquor side, the conversations became adult only in vocabulary. It’s a good thing, on the opposite side of the store is a candy aisle filled with the most astonishing collection, it will keep a kid occupied with just wishing for hours. If you tell your kids they can have just one, you have an instant baby sitter; better than television; as they agonize over their choice while you catch up on the gossip with your neighbor. We also receive a lot of tourists, a lot of foreign visitors. They are usually amazed at this first sign of Alaskan rural life style beyond the insulating hub of the Anchorage bowl. Many of them like to hang around and chat. They gawk at our thieves wanted posters. They laugh at our jokes and camaraderie with our customers. I’ve learned another lesson while working there. You don’t have to go out and find the world. If you wait long enough, it comes to you.

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5 Comments on “What’s There to be Thankful for When You’re Running on Empty”

  1. Well, I suppose we all could afford to look on the brighter side of things every so often – to be thankful for what we havefor a while instead of angry about what power is trying to take from you (can’t be mad as hell all the time, you know…).

    At any rate, I’m thankful for comrades that have my back, a relatively simple existence (well water, solar electricity and all the game animals I can shoot) and the means to keep the state at bay should it come knocking at my door.

  2. Well, you always give some of us a lot to think about – sometimes that causes my head to hurt – but hey, that’s okay. I am thankful for many things but that thing I am most thankful for is ‘change’. Change is always happening, every instant, second, hour, day, week, month whatever nothing is the same as it was then – nor should it be. Life is change constant change, if you choose not to see it – fine – but it is happening inspite of what anyone’s view is on any subject at any one given moment. I am thankful for change, problem is we don’t want change – but it does not care.

  3. A very good article, K. And it’s nice to be thankful for good things, though I wouldn’t credit Thanksgiving, a villainous and heartless holiday, with any warm feelings.

    I think it’s good to give thanks all year round, every day, for all the wonderful little moments in life that make our existence happy and worthwhile. Thanks for spreading good feelings on a rather dreary season.

  4. Excellent as always Karla. The joining together of family in and of itself for Thanksgiving or any other holiday is not bad, it’s all in our own expectations and how we go about it. We should draw close and be greatful.

  5. I’ve really enjoyed these responses, especially because they articulate the ability to be thankful. Being thankful is like that moment in your everyday life when you step aside and appreciate what you do have; a sunlit day, a welcome neighbor, an experience shared. Nothing much may have changed around you, but you have changed. You’ve acknowledged there are some things for which you are glad, making everything around you just a little lighter.

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