Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving, in the proper noun sense familiar to all in the U.S.,  is offensive to so many on so many levels its hard to know where to start.  Perhaps that is one reason (or many) that the culture warriors of the religious right take it up as a cause celebre (see for example Kate Zernike’s piece ) much as they bemoan the attack on Christmas, or the war on Christians in general.  And despite the learned efforts of Richard T Hughes and others, it would appear that the ignorance of the mass of Americans is a tide that will not be turned.

But setting aside the mythology associated with the day, the fact that it commemorates to many ethnic cleansing on a continental scale, the institutionalization by President Lincoln at what was arguably the temporal acme of the Christian fundamentalism rampant in the early 19th Century, the current economic function as the eve of “Black Friday”, not to mention the gorging, the turkey pardoning and the celebration of one of the most brutal “games” known to humankind; is there something to be salvaged from all this?

I have to argue that the fundamentalist take on Thanksgiving, i.e. giving actual thanks to a living deity actually involved in the day to day affairs of humanity, was as preposterous to our Deist forefathers as it is to most of us today.  Deists, and by extension many of us, give thanks to “Providence” not on the basis of any intercession, but as a way of expressing our recognition of that which we have and our acknowledgment that  things could always be worse (much worse.)

But in comparison to the rabbinic view of a holiday such as Yom Kippur,  I have to say that the Deist approach falls short, in that while Jews are expected to not only atone to God but to each other, acknowledging Providence is a far cry from engaging in any interpersonal expression of appreciation.

As I type this I am all too aware that my wife is, as she is every year, embarked on an herculean task familiar to many households in the U.S.; creating and setting a holiday meal, presided over by a huge not quite rampant turkey of impeccable pedigree.  She (my wife, not the turkey, which is a tom this year after all) is an easy target for my thanks, but not so the many others who may have contributed to our well being (especially those who did not so intend.) And while it is one thing to have appreciation in our heart, it is quite another to acknowledge, personally, all those who should be thanked.

How easy it is to forget the hundreds who in one way or another cared for my recently injured son,  the girl friends, boy friends dogs, rabbits, cats and others who care for or being cared for by our family have enriched our year. Those who have asked for help have given me something to do, and I am as thankful for that as for the ineptitude of those who seek to diminish my community, my state and my country; thank you – each and every one.  Thank you.

And as I watch my home gently blanketed with fresh snow (acknowledging that the roads may be soon safe again) I have a feeling that despite the horrible baggage Thanksgiving may entail, and the famine, homelessness, violence and abuse endemic to our species,  I will nevertheless savor the a few moments this evening with family, friends and a deceased tom.

I wish one and all a day to give thanks for.

Getting it ……. right …..

As I watched the barrista prepare my large dry cap, a painfully slow process whether or not you are at that point seventh in line, I could not help but think of the latest flap over the state of journalism today, perhaps because I HAD walked off and left my botched (and paid for) “dry cap” to the next person in line earlier that week. The barrista didn’t understand what a dry cap was and I was not in a generous mood. My loss.

But to return to the latest media maelstrom, in what seems to me to be a stretch similar to the one that sees white folk making $50K/yr embarrassing themselves as tea party types, Ted Koppel appears to court teabaggery by suggesting that Olbermann was no more than a mirror image of Fox News.

Fox News is not regarded as evidencing journalistic values by virtually any independent source, yet Koppel did not focus on the litany of abuse of journalistic value that is Fox and in so doing he demonstrated how uninformed his argument is.

However one takes one’s java, a dry cap is subjective; the stiffness and quantity of the “froth”, the lightness of the cup, the interface between the light and dark. Objectivity is meaningful as a term only if it is supported by a full declaration of perspective, which is to say that facts are as real as unicorns and leprechauns. Whatever the menu says, those of us who favor a dry cap have a shared vantage that informs the act. Eschewing my beverage of choice without sharing that vantage simply doesn’t rise to the concept of informed choice.

I will admit that I find Olbermann to be one of the most eloquent and informed writers on the political scene today. I feel that way not because I share his political views, but because he is incisive, critical, analytical, rational and clearly identifies his perspective and the basis for same. His analysis is cogent, well-informed, well-grounded.

Frankly, I think he made a number of excellent points in his response to Koppel (URL below) not the least of which calls to task the notion of objectivity without context. Olbermann is no more a mirror image of O’Reilly than Moyers is Hannity through the looking glass, and Koppel’s argument to the contrary is much more an indictment of Koppel himself than anything else.

Like my barrista this morning, Kronkeit and Morrows were able to get it right. I think Moyers will be seen the same way, and I am hopeful that Olbermann will be seen to merit mention among that company as well….

Koppel just doesn’t get it….

An ill wind

As I basked in the rays of an Indian summer noon, I chuckled like some outsize grasshopper to see the poor soul approach a neighbor’s sprawling lot armed with one of the “new and improved” oversized plastic rakes.

The 20 something, clearly employed by the property owners to keep the various oaks, maples and chestnuts in line, did not have a smile on his face as he surveyed the 1/2 acre of leaves covering the lawns. He took a couple of half hearted swings and as suddenly as he had appeared he was gone.

Having committed years ago to a non-intervention pact, “leaving” well enough alone, as it were, the apparent victory of trees suited me just fine, and I thought I caught a faint echo of a laugh as a breeze floated about the now almost bare crowns of the lot’s denizens.

But we were too quick to savor the victory, because the clever boy had come back with (wait for it..) a “leaf blower”. Armed with this screeching fulminous abomination the young man proceeded to commence his huffing and puffing.

I hailed the fellow and having gotten his attention I suggested at the top of my lungs (he did not seem to think killing the blower was in any appropriate to conversation) suggested that a) the trees would be gratified for the winter cover the leaves offered and b) that judicious use of a mower could both mulch leaves allowing them to remain ostensible hidden in the lawn and satisfy any craving he might have for breathing in benzene.

He gestured with the blower and I judiciously retreated across the street. I was a bit irked but the big chestnut seemed to shrug the shrug of ling suffering, and taking my cue, I retreated to a more contemplative venue.

The magnificent trees still tower over the now bare lot, but they seem somewhat diminished, disheartened with decades of abuse. My heart aches as it is an ill wind indeed that blows no good….