Thanksgiving & Black Friday: The Best And Worst of America

Thanksgiving And Black Friday Photograph

Turkey, NFL, and family drama. It’s the most American of holidays. We brave invasive TSA pat-downs to brave invasive familial interrogations. Families pose a little too forced in maybe a little too bright sweaters for the holiday picture. Siblings smile knowingly at each other in between sips as the odd uncle starts to ramble.

Mothers and daughters watch SpongeBob Squarepants float by in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Fathers and sons chuckle at the Detroit Lions’ secondary and John Madden turducken references. And we all take a long, wistful look at the “Wizard of Oz” during commercials.

SpongeBob SquarePants at Macys Parade

In elementary school, we cut hand-shaped turkeys out of autumnal colored carton paper and globbed them to popsicle sticks. We dreaded “cornucopia” on spelling tests. Our teachers recounted how Squanto taught the Plymouth pilgrims to catch eel and plant squash. And we happily gobbled the sugary stories down with candy corn until we had to read Howard Zinn in high school.

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Thanksgiving is America’s TV time-out. A four day, highly-caloric respite for the country to lick its collective wounds after another rough-and-tumble year. It’s a long weekend to reflect on not we lost but to give thanks for what we still have.

We need it. Save for gold investors, Mark Cuban, and the perma-tan (John Boehner and the cast of Jersey Shore), it’s been a dreary 2011 for most Americans. (Or 99% of them.) The recession is over only to economists. Unemployment is stuck at 9%, tied with Congress’ approval ratings.

Occupy Wall Street marks an inflection point long overdue. The crystallization of a shattered ideal for millions of Millennials. They are a generation coming to grips that America’s best days may truly lie behind it. An America where politicians serve to get elected, not to govern. A generation that will not be more successful than their parents but will move back in with them.

They were told if they studied hard, if they were prudent, life would be grand. They would have jobs. They would have what their parents had and then some. They now know this was a myth. Served up by rosy cheeked parents and school teachers in rosier times. They know now that this is a privilege, not a gift. And they are very, very upset by this.

But they also know that they are not alone. They were frustrated before Twitter. But social media helped the rage go viral; Skyping, tweeting, and updating its way across the globe. From Tahrir Square to Madrid’s indignados to Zuccotti Park, Occupy protesters discovered they have a voice. They now must figure out what to say.

Today the grievances are as motley as the geography. In Tokyo, they picket nuclear power. In Rome, they hurl bricks because of Silvio Berlusconi. In Frankfurt, they bash in BMW’s over pensions they will never see. In New York, they protest because bankers make too much while the rest make too little.

Two Thanksgivings ago, Tiger Woods was the most beloved athlete on Earth. But since that late Thanksgiving night, he lost control of his SUV, aura, endorsements, driving accuracy, marriage, full-custody of the kids, every golf tournament he’s played, and #1 player in the world ranking. 364.5 days later Tiger is shell of himself who talks more about making macaroni with the kids then Jack Nicklaus’ 18 Majors.

Last Thanksgiving, President Barack Obama could only quip, “it feels pretty good to stop at least one shellacking this November” as he pardoned turkeys Apple and Cider Wednesday. This Thanksgiving, Obama could not joke. He could simply tell families to hang in there. To keep fighting the good fight. The forced pep talk from a black and blued president who needed one most.

It didn’t used to be this way. Time was the President announced Thanksgiving each year. There was no real rhyme or reason to it. Thomas Jefferson never declared a Thanksgiving. The more festive James Madison decided on two Thanksgivings one year. And neither was in autumn. It wasn’t until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln hammered down the last Thursday each November as a national holiday.

And so Thanksgiving was until President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to tinker with it. The year was 1939. The Great Depression turned ten years old. Monopoly was the blockbuster game. Glossy Camel ads glamorized smoking in between Thanksgiving courses.

Camel Cigarettes Cure Digestion Advertisement for Thanksgiving

November that year had five Thursdays. So, FDR figured, why not make a week of it? He reasoned Thanksgiving could be a marketing bonanza to downtrodden merchants and tried to push it up a week.

Republicans were not as appreciative, however. It was confusing, they demurred, and an affront to Lincoln. So for one bizarre Thanksgiving, our parents and grandparents were split. Liberals observed “Democratic Thanksgiving” or “Franksgiving” on November 23. Conservatives enjoyed “Republican Thanksgiving” a week later. And some plumper opportunists celebrated both. Congress finally intervened and declared Lincoln had it right. Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. End of discussion.

Abraham Lincoln also started the presidential pardon of a turkey after his quirky son befriended one. But the pardon was in name alone. The turkey would not actually be spared until President George H. W. Bush, spawning decades of awkward presidential photo-ops. Especially for his son.

George Bush Gets With A Turkey WTF


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