L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 347, December 11, 2005
"So You Actually Have to be Able to Think"
Special to TLE
Ah, late November, that special time of year when Americans of all ages come together to celebrate victory over the Indians in the Battle of Thanksgiving. I don't know about you, but this is one of my favorite times of the year. This is when the leaves turn colors and fresh fires burn from chimneys. America is at its best during Thanksgiving. At no other time is America more American.
The original Thanksgiving is reported to have been a three-day feast. Today, though it's largely regarded as a one-day holiday, Thanksgiving remains a three-day affair. Each of its days represent one of America's all-time favorite pastimes: mindless drinking (Wednesday night, when people drink because, hey, there's no work tomorrow); reckless eating (all day Thursday, when people eat because, hey, it was there); and shopping for the sake of shopping (Friday morning, when people run through the aisles of Best Buy at 6 AM because, hey, it was open). No other American holiday comes so close to defining the American way of life. Halloween perhaps comes the closest, since it consists of an evening of breaking stuff followed by an evening of hiding our faces while we beg for free food. And I suppose Black History Month is another good indicator of this thing called Americana, since it somehow manages to overcompensate and undercompensate for past racial injustices. But still, none of these holidays are as distinctly American as Thanksgiving. There's no traditional Flag Day Detroit Lions game. There's no such thing as the Macy's Secretary's Day Parade (though that would be interesting).
People like to talk about exporting American values such as democracy and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Those are great things, and I agree they ought to be exported. Maybe Cracker Barrel, too, if we have enough time. But if you ask me, the best American export would be Thanksgiving. If other countries would simply partake in this holiday, all would be well (bird flu scares notwithstanding).
For example, Thanksgiving is a bringer of peace. Granted, the question of "Where to spend Thanksgiving?" often tears us apart, even as it tries to bring us together. But that's small potatoes. More importantly, no two countries that celebrate Thanksgiving have ever attacked each other. Ever. Except for the War of 1812, which doesn't really count.
Thanksgiving also quells human beings' more superficial tendencies. Finally, a holiday that respects who you are on the inside. Nobody cares if you're fat on Thanksgiving. In fact, getting fat is the whole idea behind the holiday. You're not supposed to be able to go to bed with your belt still buckled. Thanksgiving is the only holiday where you're actually expected to overflow from your clothes. (I feel weird writing this paragraph. I'm not the kind of person who naturally cares about losing and gaining weight. That just happens to be one of the prevailing themes of the holiday. And I'm just trying to make a point.) (By the way, am I the only one who finds it somewhat ironicor maybe oxymoronicthat Americans are considered both fat and obsessed with their image? There seems to be a disconnect here. Someone should choose what we are already. Are we a nation of Patrick Swayzes, or a nation of Chris Farleys?)
Finally, Thanksgiving is nice because it gives people an excuse to stop bitching for one day and actually be thankful for something. What that something is, of course, I'm not entirely sure. It's up to interpretation. The "Thanks" in Thanksgiving can mean whatever you want it to mean. Just like the "Labor" in Labor Day, or the "Christ" in Christmas. It can mean you're thankful for living in a country that celebrates Thanksgiving. It can mean that you're thankful for democracy, Lynyrd Skynyrd, or Cracker Barrel. It can even mean that you're thankful to be thankful for nothing. Whatever your heart's desire. The world would be a better place if, for just one day, people pledged to stop killing people and start killing turkeys. Think about it. Unless you're a turkey, everybody wins.
So there you have it. Thanksgiving is basically the best holiday around.