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Thursday, November 24, 2005

To John Dillinger, In Hope He Is Still Alive
By my count, we're 384 years since the first "Thanksgiving" dinner, celebrated by Pilgrims and assorted native persons, the latter of whom hadn't yet tasted the fruits of religious freedom and tolerance brought forth upon this continent by those trying to escape the persecution of the homeland.

Thanksgiving has, especially recently, become a quasi-patriotic expression of the JudeoChristian roots of our nation. Hey, if it makes you feel better to believe that Deist/Freemason founding fathers were actually full-blown fundy evangelicals, that's fine, as long as you don't elect an unqualified President on those grounds. Or if you do, then don't let him use his God-granted authority to appoint equally unqualified cronies to positions of power or responsibility.

Last year, JB posted a question that he heard and rightly identified as "boorish" (and which I paraphrase here): To whom do atheists give thanks? This is a paraphrase of the old joke that atheists have no one to talk to during orgasm (and, presumably, nothing to say when someone nearby sneezes). The joke assumes that one can't metaphorically "thank" circumstance and that God-as-idiom equates to God-as-deity.

But the big problem with that fairytale is that God wants to have His unleavened cake and eat it, too. That is, he's responsible for the presents under next month's tree, but the coal in your stocking is all your own fault. Nuts to that. If I'm required to give thanks to the Alpha Primate In The Sky for the good things in my life, you'd better believe that I'm going to take him to task for the crap, too.

But you didn't drop by to hear another of my God-As-Deadbeat-Dad screeds.

I am thankful every day for my happy, healthy family and for having a job good enough to keep a roof over our heads. I am thankful also for being able to afford to heat the house under that roof and to keep the lights on.

I am thankful not to have had to work today, but despite my thankfulness, Mother Nature wrought an unexpected chill upon Western Pa, resulting in snow and a whole lot of arctic wind. At around 1:00 this afternoon it was 15° with a windchill of about -1,000,000. And then our electricity went out. We have natural gas heat, but the furnace is powered by electricity.

I am thankful to own a home, but it's about 85 years old with windows to match, which is to say that it retains heat in the summer and cold in the winter. Responsible citizens, we keep our thermostat at 65°, but the temperature began dropping about one degree every fifteen minutes.

I am thankful that my wife had the remarkable foresight to prepare most of today's meal yesterday and to have put the turkey in the oven at around 10:00 this morning. So when the power went out we were basically in the home stretch anyway. Ultimately the lights came back on at about 3:30, and our dinner was saved. And delicious, I might add.

I am thankful for my wife's level-headeness. At some point while I was cursing the power company's inadequate and automated voice-response system, she offered a note of perspective. We were in the dark for two hours or so, but lots of people have had no reliable electricity for weeks or months or longer. And it wasn't a cold snap that knocked out the power lines—it was our JudeoChristian nation bombing the hell out of every power generation facility in Iraq so that, you know, we don't have to fight them here.

Not to be outdone, I replied "But Iraqis don't celebrate Thanksgiving."

Much of what we in God's Country are thankful for, in essence, is that we're not suffering the consequences of our righteousness and that we don't have to hear too much about them, either. Michael Moore recently made the excellent point that our media report the name of every Palestinian bomber, but a suicide bomber in Iraq is an anonymous Insurgent from outside of Iraq, of course. We can be thankful that our enemy is a swarthy and faceless Saracen (probably with turban and scimitar) rather than a desperate man whose children were killed by a bomb dropped from miles overhead.

We can be thankful that some in the world still know that the crimes perpetrated in our names are committed without our awareness or consent. Be thankful that we know the name and location of our nation's most dangerous enemy. And give thanks that Cheney and Goss are laboring to sanctify democracy through a doctrine of torture in secret prisons.

And here's a list of other things to be thankful for, still relevant almost two decades later.

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