Many people who know me are aware that I am a rank sentimentalist. I get teary-eyed at a fair number of movies; I write long emotional notes to people I love on all sorts of occasions; and I love the traditions and sentiment around the holidays. Around Thanksgiving, I always spend a lot of time thinking about how grateful I am to my parents and my family for giving me such a great home, to my old friends who are a long term source of support and happiness, and to the new friends who add some spark to my life.
But there is a cynical side to me as well. Certainly the maudlin commercialism of the holiday season brings it out in me. What brings the cynicism out the most, though, are the politicians and big businesses that never stop exploiting people whether it is the season of thanksgiving and good will or not- the big banks who use their enormous power to keep finding new ways to commit fraud and rip people off; the low wage employers who force their workers onto public assistance to survive; the health industry which wants to be able to go back to the same old health care system that allowed them to make money by denying sick people coverage; and all those politicians who carry the special interests’ dirty water in the halls of Congress.
The thing that makes me angriest of all this week where we are all wanting to give thanks for the good things we have is that because of the greed and power of the corporations and politicians I mentioned above, so many people this Thanksgiving are living on the edge. The middle class in this country is no longer just being squeezed- it is being crushed. And the poor are indeed getting poorer while the rich are certainly getting richer. For no good reason, for no reason at all except for greed and corrupt power, way too many people have been bankrupted by out-of-control health care costs; way too many people got foreclosed on through no fault of their own when the housing market collapsed around them and sent their mortgages deep underwater; way too many people can only find dead-end low wage jobs; way too many parents have no means to make sure their kids get enough to eat. For all that I am thankful of the many blessings I have been given, and I truly am, my Thanksgiving holiday attitude comes with an edge this year- an edginess that knows that too many of my fellow citizens are living way too much on the edge themselves.
That’s why the organization I chair, American Family Voices, is putting out this edgy video this holiday week. Yes, it is cynical. Yes, it is snarky. We think it will make you laugh while making a certain cynical point. For those of you wanting pure holiday cheer and happiness, my apologies. But we wanted to do something this week that reminds people that while we all have things to be genuinely thankful for, we also need to remember the people who live on the edge, especially those who live there because they have been pushed.
And now I’ll go back to my regularly scheduled cheery and sentimental holiday festivities. But I won’t forget my brothers and sisters on the edge.