So, I was all set to write a raucously appreciative and sentimental piece about yesterday’s inter generational Thanksgiving at my son’s house. Watching my firstborn roast and carve a turkey while three generations of extended family were sneaking up to “steal” chunks of the steaming bird; weeping quietly over the tearful grace offered by my daughter-in-law; arriving one second too late to prevent the two year old’s grabbing the gravy boat and anointing the table cloth; and watching the four year old tossing a “cheese head” at the ceiling while shouting “fireworks!” Priceless. Glorious.
And then I saw a meme on FB. A photo of a homeless veteran — his face painted as an American flag –and an invitation to “share” if I agreed that his needs should take precedence over those of immigrants and refugees.
Why? Why must I choose? Both the homeless vet and the nameless family are fleeing the tyranny of war. Both are suffering because those who have the ability to make and maintain peace refuse to do so. Both are being denied the basic needs of life and dignity to which they are entitled. Why not take care of both of them?
And here’s the irony. The homeless veteran is more than likely homeless because of his inability to ignore and forget what he saw and experienced in war. He/she lives as an alien in his/her own land, disabled by PSTD, and outcast among the comfortable — a silent witness and indictment to the rest of us to the price of war. He, of all people, understands what it is to be in need of shelter and healing. And he’d probably share what little he has with someone else in need.
Good Lord, yes, our veterans need to be cared for! As do the countless children and seniors in our nation who go to bed hungry and neglected each night. As to the refugees who stream out across the world literally running for their lives from hateful, violent, gangs, terrorists and armies.
But let’s stop trying to make a point about the needs of those close to home by pitting them against the “others.” It’s not that simple. It’s not worthy of us. And every time we allow it to happen, we are all made a little less human.