As traditional as pumpkin pie, I serve up to you, faithful City Beat readers, my annual Thanksgiving blog. (I originally posted it for the good ‘ol UT but, alas, since I left them they have been kind enough to delete my blog and its 200 some odd entries from their on-line archives. Kind of like a cyber-book burning. How very 1984 of them.) Bon Appétit and have a happy day.
It is time, once again, for the traditional National day of Thanksgiving, left to us by our Pilgrim forbears . Of course the Pilgrims were a branch of the English Puritan movement, violent revolutionaries who triumphed in the English Civil War of the 1640s, overthrew their king, cut of his head and, under their leader Oliver Cromwell, established history’s first modern military dictatorship. Well, no-one is perfect. (The Puritans, as you may also recall, were also big on authoritarian Democracy, meaning the community could chose its leaders but, once doing so, no-one had the right to dissent, for to dissent was to put oneself in Rebellion against the will of the community, which was a big no no — hence the Cromwell dictatorship. (I’m sure that little historical fact, even more than the turkey and pumpkin pie, makes the Puritan holiday all the more special for the Anne Coulters of America!)
Beyond such historical musings, of all our national days of celebration and solemnity this day stands out because it gives us all a moment to pause and consider the fact that none of us–even in this age of rugged individualist capitalism and ubermensch conservatism–are completely the masters of our own destiny. Each of us owes, in no small part, whatever we have to be thankful for to the divine provenance that guides us and to the community of our fellow men whom support us, without which we would be left to struggle alone as do the beasts of wood and glen.
There are numerous reasons for we as a nation to give thanks. There are, of course, Thanksgiving’s 3 F’s (family, food and football) and the big S (shopping!) to be thankful for. Now, purists, please, least you bemoan the commercialization of Thanksgiving, do know that, as a holiday, it only really took off once it became firmly associated by the rising retail department stores of turn of the 20th century America with Christmas shopping, so the After-Thanksgiving sale is legitimately just as much a part of the tradition as the Turkey and Pilgrims in funny buckle hats (which they never really wore – nor did they eat turkey—you want a traditional Thanksgiving slap Bambi on that platter–but enough icon popping.) There are worse things than living in a country with a McDonalds or Starbucks on every corner, and one of those is living in a country too poor to afford a McDonalds or Starbucks on any corner.
Here are a few other less jocular notions you might reflect on while cataloging your list of things to give thanks for over the past year:
If your child is not one of the ten million American children—almost one in five– living in poverty, give thanks. If you are one of America’s 2 million millionaires, give thanks. If you are one of America’s 228 billionaires, give a lot of thanks.
If you are not one of the 40 million Americans, including over two million with severe disabilities, who have no health insurance, give thanks. If you are one of the 45 million Americans still covered by a pension plan, give thanks.
If you were not one of the 50 million Americans downsized over the last twenty years, give thanks. If you are a CEO with an average compensation of over $10 million dollars–250 times the average pay of your corporate worker–give thanks. If your are part of the 30% of American workers able to save for future, give thanks. If you are not one of the 30% of American workers barely making enough to get by on, give thanks.
If you are one of the 50,000 families with estates large enough to have to pay federal estate taxes last year (only 2% of all estates) give thanks. Paying taxes on wealth beats all heck out of simply being poor. If you are in the top 5% households that own 59% of all our Nation’s wealth, give thanks. If you are in the top 1% of households that own almost 40% of our National wealth, just give a big old mess of thanks. You own 200 times as much as all of the people in the bottom 40% of households combined.
And, finally, if you are not one of the two million Americans in military uniform, or hundreds of thousands wearing a police badge or firefighting gear, give thanks for the valor and sense of duty of those who are.
And a new 2008 PS: Last but not least, if by the end of the Obama administration I can deduct at least a few of these thankful items off the list, then we can all give an extra helping of thanks.