Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Turkey Day

Ancient religious holidays like Christmas have an abundance of popular customs, which typically include an amazing variety of national and ethnic foods popularly associated with the holiday. Thanksgiving, being a uniquely American holiday, has, for all intents and purposes, only one such tradition - the Turkey Dinner, immortalized in Norman Rockwell's famous Freedom From Want illustration (photo), part of his Four Freedoms series, based on President Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous Four Freedoms Address to Congress in 1941. 

Some years ago, I was shocked to hear form an acquaintance how he had eaten not turkey but  prime rib on Thanksgiving in the company of some very wealthy hosts. At the time, I dismissed it as an oddity, a wealthy host's eccentricity.  I had 9and still have) no idea how widespread such a practice might be among our plutocratic elite. Perhaps it is more widespread than I then imagined. If so, it might be just one further example of how our globalized elite has become more and more alienated from the country they live in and the fellow citizens they ostensibly share it with.

It is, I suppose, one more sign of the social catastrophe covid-19 has visited upon us that this most American holiday has been impoverished at its core, thanks to our inability to gather together at family tables this year. I suspect fewer turkeys than usual will be cooked this year. I have heard from others how they are just buying turkey breasts and cooking them (or even buying them already cooked) in lieu of the traditional large bird. In this time of pandemic when so many are sick and so many have died, that seems at most a modest loss. But, as a symbol of all the many other losses so many of us have endured this terrible year, it somehow speaks volumes.

Besides taking all the necessary and proper precautions that reflect our legitimate fears, the next thing to do this Thanksgiving Day is to recommit ourselves as individuals, as families of all sorts, and as a nation to the values our annual turkey feast is supposed to signify - values articulated so well by one of our country's greatest presidents in that famous Four Freedoms speech almost 80 years ago.

"In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.                                                                                     

The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb."

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