This year I discovered how truly brutal and beautiful America is

If I’ve learned anything in 2017, it is that I am grateful for small mercies

‘Thanks to those who give us perspective. This moment we are in, here in America, is dark and exquisitely painful.’ Photograph: iStock/Getty Images

‘Thanks to those who give us perspective. This moment we are in, here in America, is dark and exquisitely painful.’ Photograph: iStock/Getty Images

 

It’s a strange thing, Thanksgiving. As a kid growing up in Ireland, I saw it in movies and never really understood it. I thought it was a made-up event for Americans to double-down on winter turkey. Or an opportunity to expose a deep family secret at precisely the moment the oversized poultry turns dry.

Over the years of living here in New York, I’ve experienced many Thanksgivings. I’ve learned about its history. I’ve felt genuine moments of togetherness and struggled through awkward stretches of tension. I’ve eaten sweet potatoes covered in sugar, tasted something called dirty rice, fallen in love with a perfect pecan pie, and determined that pumpkin patches look entirely like a hoax. There is a feeling in the air here that something big is upon us though I know back home in Ireland, it’ll just be Thursday. Straddling these two worlds is a curious predicament for an Irishwoman living in America. I’m neither in nor out.

This year, this awful, heinous, wretched year, I’m going all in on gratitude. If I’ve learned anything in 2017, it is that I am grateful for small mercies. Like previous immigrants to this soil, I’d like to take a moment and give thanks for the harvest this year has brought.

Brave souls

First up, I’m thankful to all the brave souls daring to speak truth to power and lift the lid on what women have known since the dawn of time. And thank you to all the men who are really tired right now. Sincerely, I mean that. It’s been a really stressful couple of months, hasn’t it? Hardly a day has gone by without another revelation about sexual harassment or assault. It’s exhausting. Welcome. And thank you for being in it with us.

A massive shout-out to everyone who voted for Donald Trump. Seriously. If you hadn’t stepped up and exercised your blessed franchise, a lot of (white) people in this country wouldn’t know how bad it’s been for so long for African-American, black, trans, and queer communities, or people with disabilities. An army of resistance has been mobilized, and despite the best efforts of chino-wearing men touting Nazi slogans, America is more active and engaged in the pursuit of real democracy than it has been in decades.

I’m hugely thankful to the American healthcare system for helping me see that no matter how completely and utterly rotten an apple can be, the core may still be good. Inside the giant, steaming pile of manure that passes for a healthcare system in the US are passionate, kind doctors, doing their best to care for people while Satan himself, dressed as an insurance company, sits on their shoulders.

Teachers

I’m thankful for good teachers in New York City public schools, a system so segregated and messy, it beggars belief. When a country values hard work over proper and quality education for its citizens, teachers are left on the front line to cover all the bases and produce diligent, thoughtful human beings. Also, hats off to the schools elsewhere in the country insisting that evolution is a thing and science is real.

Big props to New York City for providing every deliverable comfort a girl could want at any time of the day or night. I’m particularly grateful to all my local merchants for providing me with all the carbs, wine, carbs, ice cream, carbs, and wrapped sugar items I need to get me through this period of time. In addition to feeling like democracy and truth are crumbling, I’m also about to turn 40, so there’s a lot going on.

On the impending milestone situation, I’m thankful to 2017 for making me see that rock hard abs and toned calves are not what I want for my birthday. What I want, what I really want are stricter gun-laws, government accountability, gender equality, leadership with integrity, and okay, maybe a little less cellulite.

This wouldn’t be a proper list of thank yous without a special mention to all the seedy, slimy creeps slithering around on Twitter, attacking and trolling from the wet underneath of whatever rock it is they crawled out from under. Without them, we wouldn’t have a real handle on exactly how grotesque and cowardly they are. Also, thanks for the laughs, sometimes these vultures really do make me smile with their back and forth fighting and lack of logic and deficit of basic human decency.

Thanks to those who give us perspective. This moment we are in, here in America, is dark and exquisitely painful. I’m thankful to the friend who reminded me that there were harder times, like the 60s, when the US was deep in the civil rights movement and lost Martin Luther King, and John F Kennedy.

Lastly, I’m eternally thankful to Steve Jobs for inventing the iPad. I will be travelling on the busiest day of the year with a child in tow. The iPad will be my saviour and I will give thanks to it for every moment it gives me when I can sit and watch my own movie. Maybe one about Thanksgiving, like the ones from my childhood, before I grew up and discovered how truly brutal and beautiful this country is.

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