Being White Is Hard: Please Give

Please Give trailer, you guys:

There was a Talk of the Town article in last week’s New Yorker (that’s right, ladies, the New Yorker!) about a family that sold their house and gave half of the money to Ghana. It was an interesting article, not so much what the article was about, although that was kind of interesting, but in how wishy-washy the article (and the family) got about what they had done. Like, the family seems really unsure of their decision, or at least unsure of how to explain/present their decision to the world, and the article shares this confusion. Should the family be proud of this extreme act of generosity and selflessness? Probably! And they are. Kind of! But at the same time, their house was worth 1.6 million dollars, so even with half of that, they still probably live in a pretty nice house. I am not saying that what they did wasn’t still totally unexpected and totally generous. See? See how this suddenly gets sort of complicated? And then there was the whole guilt issue, which both the family and the article danced around. Like, should other people feel guilty for not selling their house and giving half the money to Ghana? Probably not. Guilt isn’t a very useful emotion. It’s very easily buried, and it’s mostly just an energy drain that doesn’t really lead to much positive activity. But does the family’s behavior actually inspire other people to work harder to make the world a better place, or does it just make them feel unhelpful shame, and mild resentment?

Oh, also there was this paragraph:

A girl with a ponytail raised her hand. “Have you ever regretted selling your house?” she asked.

“There are some things that I miss,” Hannah said. “We had an elevator that led up to my room, and it was really cool, because nobody else had an elevator in their room. My friends would say, ‘Let’s ride in the elevator!’ But it really doesn’t matter.”

Uhhhh. (Also, the article points out that the father and daughter wrote a book about their experiences, but doesn’t say whether they kept or donated the proceeds, which to me kind of suggests that they kept the proceeds, and obviously FAIR ENOUGH, but I am just saying that this article does a really good job of putting you in the head of someone whose head is spinning.) It’s just weird how messy the act of charity can become, and how up your own butt it is easy to get when you are a middle-to-upper-middle-class-white-person-with-too-much-education. “Maybe my neuroses and existential panic will help feed someone!” Doubt it.

Oh, and hey, this movie looks pretty funny. I just hope that it doesn’t end the way that Nicole Holofcener’s last movie, Friends with Money ended, because I had been enjoying Friends with Money up until the ending kind of kicked the movie’s own legs out from under itself. Whoops!