By Patrick F. Cannon
Note: This is my familiar Thanksgiving message, with changes as necessary. It still expresses my thoughts about my favorite day.
It has always been good advice to stay away from politics while you’re enjoying your Thanksgiving turkey dinner. The holiday is meant to be a time to give thanks for our blessings, which our politicians have decidedly not given us for many years. So, let’s toss them on the trash heap of history where they belong and celebrate Thanksgiving properly.
First of all, let’s give thanks for the amazing turkey. Over the years, farmers have taken a wild bird of amazing toughness and developed one that, properly cooked, can be sublime. I can say that because I have been responsible for making the family turkey for many decades, and it always turns out to be edible, despite my feeble culinary talents. Were Keats alive today, he would certainly write an “Ode to the Gobbler.”
(Of course, the noble bird isn’t perfect. I had a neighbor during my brief period of living in Albert Lea, Minnesota, who had been the county sheriff. He was part Native American and had a dry sense of humor. After he retired, he decided to raise some turkeys on an acreage he then owned. One night, there was a violent thunderstorm. His herd of turkeys became frightened and herded together, to the point that they smothered each other and mostly died. Sheriffy, as the locals called him, never ate turkey again. He told me their stupidity lost him a lot of money and thereafter he only ate ham for Thanksgiving.)
By tradition, so many side dishes are made that the most finicky of eaters can be satisfied. Even the vegetarians (how sad to be one on Thanksgiving) can find enough to eat. And when all are satisfied, my wife Jeanette and I have at least two more turkey dinners to enjoy, not to mention the turkey soup that the carcass so generously provides.
Around the dining table today will be our daughter Elizabeth and her husband, the inimitable Boyd; Boyd’s nephew Riley, now domiciled in Chicago, and niece Rachel, in from Madison with her fiancé Peter. We’ll also welcome Boyd’s sister and our good friend, Cathy; and my son (yet another Patrick in a family that likes that name) in from Florida. If politicians are discussed at all, it will be only to make fun of them.
In addition to being thankful for our families and friends, we can find much else to be grateful for. Amidst all the world’s problems, there is cause for optimism. For example, abject poverty in the world has been reduced from more than 50 percent 50 years ago to less than 15 percent today. In addition to inventing the more obvious technologies that have transformed computing and communications, American scientists and engineers have developed medicines and techniques that have helped people around the world live longer and healthier lives. And our agricultural scientists, despite the science deniers who oppose advances like GMOs, are helping farmers feed an increasing world population with an ever-declining availability of tillable land.
Our own country is now essentially energy independent; indeed, we are in a position to export fuel. Free market capitalism and some government programs, even though often poorly run, have helped reduce actual poverty to about five percent. Unemployment is about as low as it can get. Recent research has concluded that dysfunctional families are the only remaining significant cause of childhood hunger.
Finally, I would like to remind everyone that Americans are the most generous people on earth. Our donations of cash and labor help not only our fellow citizens, but people around the world. In addition to social services, our cultural institutions and great universities – the best in the world — are the creations of generous philanthropy.
I am personally thankful for my extended family and friends, and for their support during Jeanette’s year-long battle with leukemia, which she is winning. My dear brother Pete is now facing a battle of his own, knowing that his family and friends will return to him the love he has lavished on them.
I could go on. Just remember if you will that Thanksgiving is just that, a day to, as the old song says “accentuate the positive.” Let politics and other cares intrude on another day.
Copyright 2019, Patrick F. Cannon