Monday, November 28, 2005


Another Thanksgiving holiday *belch* has concluded and I’m 4 pounds heavier. I guess that means I did it right.

We Americans certainly have a lot to be thankful for – but I wonder if we even recognize it anymore. After all, there WAS a time when the Thanksgiving holiday meant a rare opportunity to eat a full meal. Many of today’s homeless are better fed than yesterday’s working class. They’re sure fatter, anyhow. That’s not to make light of their circumstances – only to recognize that food is easier to come by now than ever before in our history. And that’s a good thing. It means we can recognize and be thankful for more than just a full belly.

Celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November, Thanksgiving is an American tradition that can be traced back as early as 1541 – but it’s not the first the celebration of its kind. On the contrary, harvest festivals have been going on for millennia. In keeping with custom, our private party marks just another bunch of hardworking folks giving thanks and paying tribute to the Gods for another year of divine sustenance.

The original “Thanksgiving” feast, or at least the one our schoolchildren read about, is the 1621 feast at Plymouth Rock where the puritan pilgrims broke bread with the Wampanoag Indians, who more or less ensured the wayward Anglo settlers didn't starve to death. Because no good deed goes unpunished, it wasn’t long before the grateful European guests paid back their native hosts by driving them like bison to the brink of extinction. But that has proven the way of the world, time and again, throughout history: One people prospering at the expense of another.

(Editor's Note: For historical accuracy, whoever arranged this photo opportunity probably should have considered swapping outfits!)

Today, Thanksgiving has become a food carnival commemorating America’s expanding waistline. To alien observers, we undoubtedly look like a collection of wasteful, overweight carnivores intentionally getting sick by eating too much. Gluttony without apology, excused by the custom of giving thanks. We sure are a lucky bunch to have a 4-day holiday devoted to the vigorous consumption of food (and, recently, consumer goods). Don’t you think?

What I would like to see is a reversal of tradition. A Thanksgiving holiday where Americans voluntarily fast for a couple days to show appreciation for the bounty we enjoy the REST of the year. Not a religious rite, but a cultural observation during which we exercise a little humility for a change. But humility doesn’t taste as good as deep-fried turkey, sage dressing, and candied sweet potato casserole…so I’m no going to hold my breath for that one.

Besides, for how egregious our Thanksgiving gluttony has become, a part of me thinks we deserve it. We ARE considered the hardest working folks on the planet – literally killing ourselves to get ahead. Long commutes. Longer work weeks. Two-income households. Overtime. Unused vacation days. It’s good that we’re forced to get together every once in a while to remember why it is we’re working so hard in the first place: so we can enjoy those few times when we’re NOT working.

Speaking of not working, I probably ought to get back at it...

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