When gratitude gets hijacked


How Donald Trump hijacked gratitude: the New York Times explains it.

President Trump recently tweeted, “The United States, under my administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our ‘Thank you, America?’ ”

President Trump has often criticized Americans for not being grateful enough. Now he has chastised the whole world as a thankless lot of humanity — a globe of ingrates.

My friend Layman makes even more subtle distinctions that ought to factor into the story of how gratitude can be not so grand. He writes:

Back when I was living way off the grid (and posting “Weekly Harangues” emails just to let my loved ones know I was still alive) I wrote several short essays entitled: Gratitude is NOT an attitude. My main concern then was to distinguish between the social notion of thankfulness and the energetic-physiological response of rejoicing-receiving. When people decide, for whatever reason, that they ought to be intentionally inculcating ‘gratefulness’ in their emotional nervous system, they stand at a crossroads. Perhaps they will choose to cultivate the gentle, social, positive, uplifting feeling that we get when we thank granny for a sugar cookie or when we take a moment to pause while thinking how lucky we are that this world is full of roses and sunsets?

Or, alternatively, perhaps they will choose that feeling of instinctive in-drawing eagerness that every thirsty being feels when they get their hands on a glass of clean water? What I’m saying is that there has always been a rift in the issue of gratitude. Only the social form of gratitude can be socially hijacked. And social hijacking isn’t limited to the crass, quasi-fascistic recognition needs of a non-subtle president — it also includes the ordinary gratitude demands of parents who insist the child “say thank you” to every little gift whether it is instinctively useful and welcome or not. Although, to be fair, in another harangue of that same series, I did opine that superficial use of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ is what later gives us the opportunity to deepen into true prayer. That article was written to highlight the potential usefulness of what many people complain is the artificial demand for gratitude in children at the expense of their organic feelings. What do these two apparently opposite essays have in common? Only that gratitude was problematized at the dawn of civilization, not at the dawn of the ugly, bold, hilarious and depressing Trump administration…

Thanks for letting me repost your comment, Layman. And I’m not just saying that because I feel that I ought to. Or am I?

Facebook Comments


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here