Broad appeal of Thanksgiving

Take this holiday into your own hands

turkey dinnerThanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I believe giving thanks is a social, and personal good. This Alternet article explains why.

“When Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, first advocated for Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1846, she argued that it would unify the country. In our research, [we] have been able to show that Hale’s vision for the holiday has been largely fulfilled. Inclusivity of people and traditions has been Thanksgiving’s hallmark quality.

“A reason for its broad appeal is that it lacks any association with an institutionalized religion. As one interviewee told us, ‘There is no other purpose than to sit down with your family and be thankful.’

“And after interviewing a range of people – from those born in the U.S. to immigrants from countries like South Africa, Australia, and China – it became obvious that the principles and rituals they embraced during the holiday were universal no matter the culture: family, food and gratitude.”

As the title of the story reads, “How everything about Thanksgiving as we know it was shaped by the marketing industry.” Somehow, the fact that we’ve been steered to eating turkey, cranberry, and pie doesn’t bug me as I suppose it should.

Romancing the holiday

Still, I recognize that there’s an American myth around the holiday. It’s the stuff I learned growing up about the Pilgrims and the American Indians, which makes a lot of folks uncomfortable. The article by Corinne Oestreich in Huffington Post, As A Native American, Here’s What I Want My Fellow Americans To Know About Thanksgiving, speaks to this:

“If I could ask one thing from my non-indigenous fellow Americans when it comes to Thanksgiving, I would ask that you refrain from teaching the romanticized version of the holiday. Read to your children about what it means to be thankful, what it means to heal and be a family. Learn as a family about the tribal nation that is local to where you live.”

In this polarized political environment, sometimes learning “what it means to heal and be a family” seems to be an insurmountable task. Yet, if it is possible – and sometimes it’s not – we try.

“Take time during dinner to recognize whose traditional lands you give thanks on. Take this holiday into your own hands and understand that not every Native will have good feelings about this day, and be accepting of that. We can all choose how we feel about this holiday, but it is always our own choice.”

I suppose this is a bit of a Debbie Downer ending to a holiday post. So it goes.

Limit political stress for better health

essential strategyDr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen, MDs, posted an email ad, Limit Political Stress for Better Health, I’m a not a devotee of Oz and don’t know Roizen, but it sounds about right, especially with US Thanksgiving coming up.

“A University of Nebraska survey found that nearly 40% of people say politics are stressing them out; 20% are losing sleep or are fatigued or suffering depression because of politics; and 20% report that political discussions have damaged friendships. This worries health professionals.”

ONLY 20% report damaged friendships?

They lay out a plethora of ailments including depression, anxiety, headaches and chronic pain syndromes. “It can exacerbate asthma and COPD; damage the circulatory system and heart; disrupt your hormone balance and immune system; increase your risk of dementia and cancer; cause digestive upset; and even alter fertility.”

Altered fertility? Maybe this explains the diminishing birth rate, not just in the United States.

“That’s why it’s important to find a way to de-escalate anxiety, anger, and conflict about political events (while remaining committed to every American’s involvement in the political process — including that uncle you disagree with).”

Even HIM? OK.

Avoiding political stress

“Here are some tips to avoid the stress of politics:
• Limit time spent watching and reading news coverage.
I fail.

• Turn off your phone’s news alerts.
I think this is a GREAT idea, actually.

• Ask friends to drop the subject, and talk about movies, books, or food instead.
I see the first two as problematic. For instance, I can see someone recommending “Why Trump Deserves Trust, Respect and Admiration,” a real book title with blank pages. Someone responses with the newest book by conservative author Dinesh D’Souza.

Do you really want to discuss a Michael Moore film with half of your relatives?
And heck, food’s dangerous too. It can engender debates about foie gras, meat, or food produced from farther than 100 miles away, to name just a few topics.

• Use physical activity (60 minutes daily) and meditation to calm your stress response and mind.
Yes, walk away from these discussions and discuss the weather. “Climate change is killing us!” “There’s no such thing!”
Or, ah, er…

With Thanksgiving at hand, what are now SAFE conversation starters?

Thanksgiving 2018 and JFK assassination

Governor Scott Walker was an enemy of labor and particularly teachers.

JFK Thanksgiving Day proclamation 1963
JFK Thanksgiving Day proclamation 1963
When I went out with a woman named Susan in the late 1970s and early 1980s, she always had a particular blessing at Thanksgiving. She invoked the memory of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was assassinated on 22 November 1963.

I’ve linked the two events in my mind so much. When the anniversary and the holiday actually happen on the same day, which took place in 1984, 1990, 2001, 2007, 2012, takes place in 2018, and won’t happen again until 2029, it seems…correct.

Maybe because my daughter was studying world religions recently, but it’s like – stay with me here – the principle of Yin and Yang, that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites. The pain of loss and disruption and uncertainty is somehow paired with the joy of thanks and hope and renewal.

Anyway, here are some things I’m thankful for:

* Kindness, as exemplified by custodian Carolyn Collins’ Closet of Kindness

* The truth tellers: Especially Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and, for more current info, A Closer Look – Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Also The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, which has found its own voice.

* Some of the election results, including All 19 Black Women Running for Judge in a Texas Race Won

Zach Wahls was elected as a State Senator for Iowa’s Senate District 37

Would it be ungenerous to be thankful that certain people lost? Probably, but I am. I’m only human.

Governor Scott Walker appears to have been defeated by just enough to not get a recount, a policy he himself enacted. He was an enemy of labor and particularly teachers. As Borowitz wrote: Unskilled Wisconsin man unable to keep a job.

Notorious Vote Thief and Incompetent Gubernatorial Candidate Kris Kobach Loses. As Kansas Secretary of State, he “built his career on voter suppression, whipping up nativist fervor by claiming that a large number of noncitizens are casting ballots. (They aren’t.)”

Democrat unseats Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in Orange County [CA] House district – “Rohrabacher’s friendliness to people with links to Russia has become more controversial.”

Rowan County, Kentucky’s Kim Davis, the clerk who refused to sign marriage licenses for gay couples, loses to Democrat.

Author of North Dakota Voter ID Law Targeting Native Americans Loses His Seat–To A Native American – Randy Boehning, a GOP state representative, was unseated by Democrat Ruth Anna Buffalo

On a more positive note, I’m thankful to Gus and Mary and Jack and Adriana and Becky and others who visit my blog almost every day; those bloggers I’ve been following, including, but not limited to, Arthur, Chas, Jaquandor, and Chuck.

I’m thankful for my library friends; my church friends, in particular, the choir; my hearts friends – next game is March 9!

I’m thankful for my old friends such as Uthaclena, who dragged me to a ball game; Karen; and notably Carol, who went to visit my sister after her accident.

I’m thankful for my in-laws (REALLY!), sister Marcia, and niece Alex; my niece Rebecca, who took great care of her mom; sister Leslie, and all those other folks, especially Leilani, who treated her.

I’m thankful for my daughter, who always teaches me something new; and my wife who tolerates me.

Finally, I’m thankful to the folks I email or message when I’m feeling down, which includes some of the above.
With the closing of Camelot

Thanksgiving 1987

My general solution for dealing with stressful situations is Being Useful.

turkeyThe Thanksgiving of 1987 I had just started dating someone less than a month earlier. Her plan was to go to her mother’s house, about an hour away. My plan had been – well, I had no particular plan, which had been my m.o. for much of the late 1970s to the mid-1990s. So I went with her.

This was at a big old country house, and 20-odd people were to share the meal. Meeting that many strangers at one time was not my favorite situation. Among other things, I’m terrible at remembering the names of that many people in a compressed period of time; they don’t wear name tags.

My general solution for dealing with stressful situations is Being Useful. In addition to making some chitchat, I probably set the table, and almost certainly answered the door when newcomers arrived.

I did none of the cooking, and with four or five people in the kitchen, I had no desire to be in there. After dinner, my Being Useful really kicked in, as I volunteered to wash the dishes. This involved soaking the pans, and then hand washing the bowls, plates, silverware – no dishwasher here – then wash the pans at the end.

And that was fine; I LIKE washing dishes. Maybe it’s a water sign thing. I’m sure I had help, with someone drying the dishes and putting them away.

If you’re ever in a gathering of folks you don’t know, try Being Useful. It’s seen as helpful, rather than antisocial.

Pizza and compassion, to go

On this Thanksgiving day, I’m thankful.

pepperoniandveggieIt was a Monday in late September when I was coming from a meeting, and heading to church. This guy named “Tim” was looking for something to eat.

Being very close to a pizza shop on Lark Street in Albany, I asked him to come in and order a slice or two. While we were waiting, Tim told me what a screw-up he had been. Continue reading “Pizza and compassion, to go”