With sincere apologies to Brian Shields, the thing I like best about Thanksgiving is the way my house smells all day. (I am allowed to use more spices, Brian, although I have to stay away from the ones that set off hyper-allergic reactions in my son.)
This is an interesting season, because so many Americans have been sold on the idea that we are standing on the brink of a catastrophe. I can get on the net and see lists of stores I should not buy gift certificates from, because they probably won't be in business next year to redeem them. I can watch the unemployment statistics rise, see Czar Paulson running around like a turkey with his head chopped off (and his neck stuffed up his ass with the giblets package), tossing out hundreds of billions of dollars to everybody except the taxpayers who generated it.
I can read kavips, who has decided that this is the last Thanksgiving before ... the Blackness.
I can open up the Snooze Journal, as I have for the past few days, to find yet another state government organization proclaiming that the world will end if spending has to be balanced against receipts. Yesterday it was the Department of Education and the Court System, today it's DelDot. Funny, I've never actually been sure what DelDot does with the money--certainly doesn't seem to be keeping roads in repair.
And I can watch President-elect Obama doing exactly what I would be doing in his place, at least in a rhetorical sense, which is making dire enough predictions about how bad it is all going to get before it gets better. Part of this is realism, but another huge chunk is your typical politician trying to ensure that if the economy still stinks 18 months into his administration you don't blame him.
[As much as I disagree with many of his policies, I will say it's nice to have somebody back in the White House who at least knows how to give a damn speech.]
Don't get me wrong: there are going to be some tough times ahead. As a culture we've been living beyond our means in a credit bubble for too long, and eventually, eventually, the Reaper had to show up at the door. [Obama should be happy that the skeleton appeared before he was elected. Whew. Dodged a bullet on that one.]
In those tough times, people are going to get hurt--economically, psychologically, and physically. But since that happens everyday around the world while we're not paying attention, maybe it's not necessarily a bad thing to be reminded that the USA is not immune.
I look at my children, however, and I think: this is a chance for them that I never had in my lifetime.
The Great Depression, followed by World War Two, gave us the Greatest Generation.
There's going to be plenty of economic hardship and--unfortunately--military conflict over the next 5-8 years. My twins are just about the age my Dad was when the Depression broke out. It made so many aspects of his character, he told me, far better than they otherwise would have been.
Those of us in our 50s, 60s, and up are not going to be the Greatest Generation of this story. That role has been reserved for our children and grandchildren. They are the ones who will redefine America, as America gets redefined anew every 3-4 generations. For my conservative friends who are afraid that somehow progressives and liberals will turn this country into France or Sweden while we're not looking, don't worry....
This country, like Russia, like India, and like China, is too big, too rambling, and too diverse to follow any model of society or economics that works for a State with only a fraction of our scale and population. Our children will turn this country into what America needs to be to thrive and grow in the 21st Century, and I am not worried about entrusting the future to them.
But this is a Thanksgiving post, and I should tell you what we are thankful for, here at hacienda Newton.
We're thankful that my wife is recovering from three-level spinal fusion, that the doctors are dealing with the residual referred nerve pain, and that she will be able to go back work in January.
We're thankful that my son is responding to the blood pressure medications meant to help him deal with Adolescent Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
We're thankful that my eldest daughter finally landed a full-time job with benefits, and that it is in a position that's not going to go away very quickly even if the economy continues to tank [and it doesn't hurt that the company she now works for is listed as one of the "Ten best companies in Pennsylvania to work for"].
We're thankful that my younger daughter is once again making good grades in Algebra. There was this rocky period of about two weeks when the teacher wanted her to drop back into an easier class, but she said, "No, Dad, if you'll help me I can do this." And she has. Some of the determination she learned this year as a 12 year-old fighting to become the starting goalie on a 14 year-old soccer team has translated into the rest of her life.
We're thankful that my grandson has a great kindergarten teacher, who has helped tease out the reading disabilities we knew he'd have (ain't genetics wonderful) and has gotten him into an early intervention program.
We're thankful that, when our income took a big hit with my wife's temporary disability, I was able to find a second job to supplement things, and that it is something I actually like doing.
We're especially thankful that, about six months before the nation's current financial rough ride started in earnest, we took stock, saw it coming, and made the tough decisions to get our own financial house in order. I realize now that it is a blessing to make tough choices on your own timetable rather than one imposed from the outside.
There is a future ahead of us, and it is as bright as our children are willing to build and sacrifice to make it.
Some of them will excel, and some of them will fall. As a country, and as individual families, we will tend our wounded, bury our dead, and just keep going.
That's what we do. Somewhere (I think it was in the 1990s, but it could have been earlier or later), that essential of the American character sort of slipped out of focus, and we concentrated more on the things that did not matter, the things we could buy instead of the things we could be.
That's ending, now. At least I hope so.