Reflections on Politics, Gratitude, and Thanksgiving

This seems like a good time to write a post about gratitude. Sometimes I think that when we hear the word gratitude, we immediately groan and prepare ourselves to be told how we ought to be thankful. Or maybe that’s just me? I think the issue that I have with gratitude is that we’re often told we should be grateful for something in response to a negative emotion we’re having. If I’m having a bad day and I’m sad or anxious, the last thing I want is for someone to tell me that I should be more grateful.

I think it’s the way that gratitude is often held up as an obligation that really rubs me the wrong way. After all, it’s not a choice between being sad or being grateful. Gratitude does not and ought not to overrule your feelings. For example, while I am grateful for things like my Fiance, my dog, my family, and my friends, I am at the same time also fearful and sad about the state of politics in the United States at this moment. My reaction to Trump being the President-elect is not to think that at least I don’t live in Syria. So yes, I am grateful for my relative safety compared to those in Syria, but that does not negate my fears of living under a President Trump.

Gratitude has its place, certainly. However, I think that gratitude should come out of a sense of love for one’s blessings, rather than a sense of obligation. Gratitude should not be something that will negate righteous anger, or understandable sadness and anxiety. Even if you’re feeling sad for no reason at all, it’s very hurtful for someone to tell you that you ought to disregard that feeling and be grateful, when that’s the last thing you could imagine feeling.

I think what I’ve discovered this Thanksgiving is that gratitude can coexist with a range of feelings, and that we should be wary of those who tell us to accept unfair circumstances just because someone out there has it worse than us. Gratitude should not give way to complacency. I will remember my gratitude for my country, but this gratitude will not make me stand idle in the face of hatred.

 

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