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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

The Occasional Muse
My humble opinion on current events

November 25,  2002

Remember Thanksgiving

As I was wheeling the garbage can to the curb last night, a home down the block was lit up for Christmas, with icicle lights lining the eaves and a giant, inflatable, lit Santa Claus standing in the front yard. The house across the street has matched that with more icicle lights and raised it with an giant, inflatable, lit Christmas tree.

I probably shouldn't have been surprised. The Christmas season starts the day after Halloween in drug and retail stores all over the nation. Halloween masks, candy, and pumpkin carving kits are replaced with cheap garlands, ornaments, and fake wreaths. Old Christmas CDs are on sale for $5.99 in your local supermarket, and new releases are in Best Buy and Circuit City. Mailboxes are stuffed with Christmas catalogs from L.L. Bean and Eddie Bauer, among many others. TV stations show more and more Christmas commercials every week, beginning before Halloween. Malls are decked with Christmas greenery and decorations and already advertising Christmas sales. 

I realize this trend has been happening for some time now, but it seems worse this year. I think the last straw for me was when a local radio station began playing nothing but Christmas music this past weekend, nearly a week before Thanksgiving. The station usually begins its Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving, but this year that was just too late. It couldn't wait five extra days. Why not?

In the rush to attract Christmas shoppers and wring out every last dime out of already strapped consumers, are we losing Thanksgiving?

This is not an idle question. Unlike Halloween and Christmas, Thanksgiving offers few chances to make money. Supermarkets are emptied out, of course, but there's no Thanksgiving industry, no interest group or association dedicated to promoting and profiting from Thanksgiving. Even the one venerable Thanksgiving tradition, the Macy's parade, ends with Santa Claus and his sleigh, thus ushering in the Christmas shopping season before most Americans have consumed a bite of turkey. So it's only natural that businesses start bombarding us with sales pitches before the jack-o-lanterns are pitched in the trash. There's no cash to be made from Thanksgiving, so let's pretend it doesn't exist and get right to promoting the next gotta-have toy or electronic gadget.

All year, we are consumed with acquiring more stuff, rushing from store to store, buying books and CDs off the Internet, buying a bigger home, a better car, a boat, or jet skis, racking up mountains of credit card debt in the process. Thanksgiving is the one time of year when we can relax for just a moment and reflect on and give thanks for what we have. We help those who don't have as much as we do, so they too can count their blessings. We also realize that all the stuff we have to have is just that - stuff. We could do without virtually all of it and still live happy lives. Thanksgiving gives us the chance to pause from the rat race - and the inevitable frenzy to come that is the Christmas shopping season - and appreciate the intangibles that life offers, like our loved ones and our country.

Look, I love Christmas and look forward to it all year. But it has its proper time and place. So please, put away the tinsel, leave the fake tree in its box, and let's remember - and celebrate - Thanksgiving.

News and Notes

Harvard Law School is considering a ban to free speech after some students and a professor made comments that other students didn't like. The school may impose a ban on whatever it defines as offensive speech. Harvard wouldn't be the first school to limit First Amendment rights - may universities, which often puff themselves full of pride for offering a free exchange of ideas, force students and faculty to toe the party line and avoid any comments or speech that someone, anyone, might find offensive. Let's hope Harvard continues to distinguish itself by protecting freedom on its campus.

The National Geographic Society released the results of a geography survey, and they are abysmal. The organization polled Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 on a variety of fairly simple geographical questions. The survey asked 56 questions about geography and current events, and the Americans answered an average of only 23 correctly. Twenty-nine percent could not locate the Pacific Ocean and ten percent couldn't even locate America on a blank map of the world. Public school system, be proud.

Finally, Tom Daschle accused Rush Limbaugh of inciting his listeners to violence. The soon-to-be minority leader in the Senate lamented the number of threats against he and his family, and essentially blamed talk radio listeners, who get so riled up when Limbaugh and other hosts "attack" Daschle and other Democrats. Naturally, Limbaugh has made hay over the issue. It's interesting that when conservatives criticize leftists, particularly those in academia, they whine and cry about it, accusing conservatives of trying to stifle debate. I wonder what they would call Tom Daschle's comments.

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