By John Kass
Thanksgiving Day 2022
For the past several years I’ve called upon a local smart-ass called Mr. Thanksgiving Advice Man to dispense important Thanksgiving Day manners and advice.
And to deal with common questions, like: “Can I use a large piece of crispy turkey skin as a mask to protect me against an airborne virus?”
Sure. It’ll work about as well as those face diapers most Americans have been using.
But today, I’ve decided to give Mr. Thanksgiving Advice Man the day off. He can just sit the corner drinking your whiskey, enjoying your Ruffles chips and Mrs. Grass Onion Soup dip mix. And he’ll eat your turkey, your cranberries and your favorite Jell-O (even the lime flavored one with the horrid floating chunks).
Yet chunks or no chunks, who wouldn’t thank their hostess for the wonderful dinner? It’s what we do.
Because today is Thanksgiving Day.
Betty and I want to thank you too. We’re so very thankful for your subscriptions to johnkassnews.com . Yes, I know that the news landscape is broken. Many of you feel you don’t get fair treatment or your money’s worth from corporate media.
All I can tell you is that I’ll keep calling it the way I see it, just as I’ve been doing for years. I made you a promise when I started this thing. If you keep subscribing, and I’ll keep writing.
Today though, there’s something else on my mind, before we get together and Betty or my sister-in-law Georgia or her sisters Eleni and Frances bring out the tiropites from the oven.
I hope you might think of it in some quiet moment when you’re alone on this Thanksgiving Day, say you’re alone in the dining room and the table is set and you’re waiting for guests to arrive. It involves how we got here. And the reason why we’re gathering today.
It starts with prayer and worship. That Norman Rockwell painting at the top of this column speaks to it. The painting was part of the Four Freedoms series he made during World War II, to remind Americans what they were fighting for. There there are many outside our nation and many others within who hate it that there are still some Americans who kneel to pray to someone other than the federal government.
So let’s deal with the thing itself. Who are we thanking, really, on Thanksgiving Day? The president? Some other politician, ourselves?
I hope not. We’ve already seen what our narcissism has done to us. Belief in ourselves can only take us so far. There is no light at the end of the narcissist’s journey, only darkness. Volumes have been written about this, but six little words will do:
We are not our own gods.
On Thanksgiving Day we take time to thank the Lord Almighty for this American nation of ours, a land that is blessed above all others. Only a God who loves us would have put this nation before us, with all its promise and all its challenges that make us stronger.
A god who did not love His creations would have treated us as pets. Only a God who truly loved us would challenge us, constantly, so that we might test our spirit against the obstacles before us, as we reach for the good.
So, I prefer to think of this Thanksgiving Day as it was intended in 1789 by the greatest American, George Washington, our first president who issued his proclamation from Mt. Vernon when America was in her infancy:
“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed.”
So, what are you thankful for? Many are thankful for liberty and freedom, yet unfortunately many define freedom as that which we can consume, or stuff into our bodies without fear of consequence? There is is more to freedom, isn’t there? And there are always consequences.
I’m thankful that I grew up at a time when all kids did not get a trophy just for showing up.
I thank God for the American meritocracy, where your skill and desire to learn, and a flexible mind and determination could take you where you wanted to go. Meritocracy has been under attack by those who insist on equality of result, not equality of opportunity. They do this to gather power to themselves. They attack what was great about America. To attack meritocracy is their admission that they hate her.
It wasn’t just the natural resources of the land, and our ocean that shielded us. It was the understanding that America wasn’t just land or a government, but an idea. And competition and innovation were what counted.
And there is nothing that could bind all children, black, white and brown, like the understanding of fair play. That only the fastest could win the race. Only the best could play in the game. The rest of us sat on the bench. If we wanted to play in the game and score, well, we didn’t call lawyers or ask our mommies to intercede. Instead, we practiced harder, determined to improve. We worked at it.
Children are instinctively drawn to truth and the truth was and is that we all believe in fair play. We believed this was the land of opportunity, the country where a student from Nigeria, with black skin, and students from Greece and Italy, with our olive skin, and kids whose parents were gingers from Ireland could love and respect fellow countrymen and teammates from Jordan and Mexico, from China and India and Viet Nam and everywhere else in all of the various hues.
Those who used skin pigment to divide winners and losers are racists. It tears the American spirit. They coat it with honeyed words and talk of “equity” rather than “equality of opportunity,” because that’s what politicians do now. They cleave to power at the cost of the American future. It is racism to use race. And it is racist to make excuses for it.
It is as unfair and as fundamentally un-American as denying a man a seat at a lunch counter simply because you didn’t like the color of his skin.
And yes, as you competed, as you ran the race and played the game, or sought the promotion or tried to nail down that business deal, or develop that formula, you could stop and help others along the way out of kindness. You could give up your place in the race to another, but that was your decision, not a politician’s decision under color of law, with the hammer of government in his hands.
I’m thankful for growing up in an America when adults wanted us to struggle for the things we wanted, so that attaining a goal was something spectacular, and we’d remember our sacrifices made to get there and the drive as we reached for the prize.
I’m thankful to God that I grew up in that America. And my Thanksgiving is in part a prayer so that my children (and grandchildren if we’re ever blessed with them) might live in an American meritocracy.
Competition sharpens the point of the spear. And other nations, China in particular, harden their people in fire for the same reason. They see they softness in us. They press the point.
Some of you may think of the first Thanksgiving as a feast of plenty between the Europeans and Indians of Pocahontas in a Disney version. Others will rely on the Rockwell painting from his “Four Seasons” series that is called “Freedom from Want.”
It would be worth fighting for. But my favorite Thanksgiving table is to be found in Thomas Nast’s cartoon in Harper’s Weekly, from November 1869, called “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner.”
What do I like about Nast’s cartoon?
It’s loud and boisterous, like my family when I was a child. You didn’t wait for a ticket to speak at our holiday dinners. You just spoke up and then fought to defend your position. Even kids. There were no safe spaces at the family dinners. If you wanted to indulge fantasy you could go off by yourself. But if you wanted to participate, then you had to take a position and defend it. Snowflakes weren’t allowed. It was my first university. Perhaps it prepared me for my work as a Chicago political columnist. I’m thankful for those dinners every Sunday when I was a boy.
Nast’s “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner” is a multi-cultural table, the nation ever changing and dynamic, but an American melting-pot with all the races and groups sitting together with the echoes of the Civil War still in America’s ears. They may not have believed it then, but the children of all these different American tribes would eventually find each other, get together, and pair up, too. And have babies.
Nash gives us a true American Thanksgiving.
Asians, Blacks, European patriarchs, a Native American brave with a feather in his hair, white women suffragettes. A Latina covers her mouth with her fan as she tells a secret.
Madame Columbia sits at one end of the table between a black gentleman and a braided Chinese gentleman, brave stuff in those days. And to the far right you see Uncle Sam at the head of the table, carving the turkey.
I don’t see any Greeks or Italians there, no Palestinians, Serbians, Croatians, or Poles. But they’ll be there too. In those days some of us weren’t allowed to sleep indoors with the white people. At least that’s how my grandfathers learned it.
Today is just like that day more than a hundred years ago now, when my grandfather Papou Pete came alone on the boat as a little boy of 8 or 9 years old, a child of crushing poverty, with the crushing responsibility of a dozen sisters to feed in the mountain village back home.
And when I think of him I think of all my grandfathers and grandmothers so desperate to be part of this American experiment. I read Elia Kazan’s novel “America, America” and watch the great film he made of that book, of a boy desperate to escape the Ottoman Empire and become American and live free. That story burns in my heart. And I thank God that some of my people were fortunate to come here and that I was born an American.
They didn’t come to America because it offered them economic guarantees. There were no guarantees. They built their lives and businesses, working long hours, taking great risks, only to be told by an American politician that “You didn’t build that.”
The immigrants America needs come for a chance. Their descendants hope that America–despite what the socialists have done to it–remains the land of opportunity. They didn’t simply want to live in America and take from her. They wanted to become American.
May God bless you and your families on this American Thanksgiving Day, and may God bless America today and forever.
p.s. I’m taking the weekend off. On Friday I’ll be watching the United States Men’s Soccer Team play in the World Cup on TV against mighty England, the people who invented the English game now watched by 5 billion sports fans around the world. I’ll see you in a couple days. Adios. Happy Thanksgiving.
(Copyright John Kass 2022)