The Politics of Resentment and the Radical Nature of Gratitude

The mythical “war on Christmas” worked so well with nostalgia voters that apparently Fox News and Donald Trump are attempting to replicate it with a mythical “war on Thanksgiving.” Here’s what the president said during a rally in Florida on Tuesday.

“Some people want to change the name Thanksgiving,” Trump said at the beginning of his rally in Sunrise, Florida. “They don’t want to use the term Thanksgiving. And that was true also with Christmas. But now everybody is using Christmas again. Remember I said that?”

“People have different ideas why it shouldn’t be called Thanksgiving,” Trump continued. “But everybody in this room I know loves the name Thanksgiving and we’re not changing it.”

The issue that will probably go right over the heads of the president’s audience is that he is tapping into the politics of resentment to defend Thanksgiving. That’s pretty much the definition of an oxymoron. The reason Trump’s supporters are resentful rests on the assumption that the privileges to which they have grown accustomed are being threatened.

Years ago a blogger named Nezua (who wrote at the Unapologetic Mexican) went in search of the nexus between all of the “isms” that plague our culture. He found it in something Derrick Jensen wrote in his book The Culture of Make Believe.

I have spent the past several hours now thinking about the notion that masters “shall be entitled to their labor,” and at the risk of overstating, it seems to me that entitlement is key to nearly all atrocities, and that any threat to perceived entitlement will provoke hatred.

Entitlement is simply another way of talking about the privilege that nostalgia voters resent losing.

Nezua went on to identify the antidote to entitlement, noting that “big change sometimes take place in the form of something as small as one thought being abandoned, and a new one taking its place.”

And after all, what happens when we remove that sense of entitlement?

We grow humility.

What happens when you nurture a sense of humility in place of entitlement? You place your feet on the same ground as I…Entitlement is the antithesis of gratitude. And honestly, you are one lucky human.

I’m sure there are those who don’t think that they’re “one lucky human.” But here’s something that always puts it in perspective for me.

At the end of that video we learn that if you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep…you are richer than 75% of this world. That is both a call to engage in the struggle and a reminder of how fortunate we are. Ultimately, it is the death knell to a sense of entitlement.

That is why a deep sense of gratitude is such a radical proposition.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.