People are more conflicted than ever this Thanksgiving. The deaths of 4,000 people in New York make many of us wonder whether God is sleeping on the job.
It is said there are no atheists in foxholes, but, on the flipside, I wonder what happens to the faithful when they are targeted for random acts of violence. “In God in We Trust, United in Stand” signs have popped up everywhere. But can we really trust a deity who couldn’t even make a dozen religious fanatics trip and impale themselves on their box cutters as they passed through airport metal detectors?
Then again, maybe God is giving us some good news. The Taliban is retreating faster than a Democrat before a war resolution. Better still, we have Bin Laden on the run. If we’re lucky, by Thanksgiving morning we’ll all get a nice holiday treat and he’ll be dead. If God wants to top this serving of pumpkin pie with whipped cream, He’ll also help us take out Saddam. Then we’ll really have some blessings to count.
It may seem crude, but thanking God for your enemy’s demise is very much in keeping with the Thanksgiving tradition. In 1637, John Winthrop, first Governor of Massachusetts, gave solemn thanks for the safe return of his troops from the messy, but necessary, job of massacring over 700 Pequot women, children, and men. The governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts, issued our country’s first official Thanksgiving Proclamation on June 20, 1676. The proclamation thanked our Creator for making sure that heathen natives were “in any measure disappointed or destroyed.” Leave it to the Puritans to find the rosy side to colonial domination.
Thanking God for the death of your enemies is just one way of finding the silver lining in the dark clouds of doom that envelope us. Even war has a bright side. Take Abraham Lincoln’s 1896 Thanksgiving Proclamation, for example. Right smack in the middle of the Civil War, Lincoln proclaimed, “peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict.” There you have it. The nation was at peace if you just ignored “the theatre of military conflict” that cost the lives of several million people. Obviously, the Great Emancipator has an unearned reputation for being gloomy.
Indigenous people, on the other hand, tend to dwell on unpleasant things. They can be genuine sticks in the mud, if you ask me. They’re likely to remind us, as they typically do, that September 11 was not the first major act of terrorism on American soil. The hackneyed line is that native people have been the targets of over 500 years of uninterrupted terrorism. They might point out that tens of millions of their people lost their lives to European expansion, a colonialism with precursors to today’s bioterrorism (millions died from smallpox, measles, etc.). They may even have the audacity to offer examples, all of them historically marginal by any sensible measure, of how Manhattan has seen its fair share of terrorist attacks pre-September 11. They may mention that in the 1640s the Dutch acquired the island by exterminating the Weckquaesgeeks, the island inhabitants.
The way I look it at, examples of Indian suffering can’t be taken too seriously given the complete lack of live video footage.
Thanksgiving is supposedly a secular celebration, but the religious overtones, always within earshot, this year are overwhelming.
People keep saying “God Bless America.” This doesn’t sound much like a prayer of thanks. It’s not a humble entreaty or the embodiment of some vague hope — not “May God Bless America”. No, it sounds menacing. We’re not asking for God’s blessing. Instead it seems that we’re placing an order. Dictating, in fact. “Hey God, bless America . . . Or Else.” Most folks on this good green planet would probably shy away from giving even a hint of such impertinence before the All Mighty. God, while His mercy knows no bounds, does not look kindly upon anyone who questions His authority. God’s memory is long (stretching all the way to infinity and back, in fact) and He keeps pretty good records on all transgressors and malcontents. Very Santa-like. If you act up, God is apt to force you to attend a Britney Spears concert. The punishment could be even harsher. God could banish you to the Green Party, a political purgatory if there ever was one.
But even God should be wary about taking on the USA. After all, how many times has He faced a superpower with a trillion dollar a year defense budget? Sure, God seems omnipotent when contrasted with, say, Pharaoh’s army. But just let Him try to take on the USA. Make our day. We have the firepower to make Sodom and Gomorrah look like an Aggie bonfire. Listen up God. Don’t think there’s anywhere you can hide from us. We’d like to see what your golden throne and “heavenly paradise” would look like after a couple months of carpet bombing. Don’t bomb Afghanistan during Ramadan? Ha! Not only will we bomb, we’ll light up the whole country like a Christmas tree and decorate it with soldiers from our broad international coalition of troops from Britain and the USA.
Speaking of Christmas, assuming this war is still on, I hope we call a ceasefire during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Our piety requires that we reflect upon the birth of the Prince of Peace. We must pray that people everywhere will some day open their hearts and realize that universal love and fraternal harmony are possible, if only we can muster sufficient faith to make Heaven on Earth a reality. But come December 26, let’s get back to some serious ass kicking.
Finally, as you cut into the old butterball and try to ingest your third serving of grandma’s special walnut and date cornbread stuffing, please turn down the volume of whatever NFL rout you’re watching on tv (it’s only for a minute!). Take a second to remember the millions of war refugees who are starving in Afghanistan. Join me in petitioning Our Heavenly Father to go easy on any suffering He might inflict on these misguided people. If He wants us to stop the bombing, let Him show us a sign. We are, after all, His instruments in this war and we will do His bidding (within reason and as long as it doesn’t compromise national security, of course). What kind of sign would make us stop? Something like cutting the defense budget in half or resuming the Florida recount would do nicely.
But in the absence of a heavenly sign or of some unfathomable switch by God from our side to the enemy’s, let’s stuff ourselves with grub and gear up for Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. This year, we are under a patriotic duty to spend our way out of our communal funk. Under the Gospel according to Bush and Greenspan, God will surely lavish upon us blessings piled high (to be stashed in our car trunks), but if only we can make it to the malls. CP