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A Thanksgiving Column Wanted: Turkey, Dead Or Alive

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The boy named the turkey “Jack.”  He grew fond of the bird, led it around by a leash through the Rose Garden behind the Whitehouse and fed it corn kernels, not realizing that he was, in effect, fattening Jack for the slaughter.   

Today we celebrate Thanksgiving Day.  President Abraham Lincoln established this perpetual memorial in 1863.  The War Between the States was raging but Lincoln declared that the final Thursday in November would be set aside for giving thanks to God, to be thankful for what we have and what we don’t have.

As the story goes, the thanksgiving turkey arrived at the Whitehouse and the President’s son, Tad, 10 years old, befriended it.  But when the butchers came for the bird Tad burst through the doors of the room where his father was meeting with his cabinet and cried, “Father! they’re going to butcher Jack!”

Honest Abe rose to his six-feet-four-inches of height, tugged the lapels of his waistcoat, and said, “I’d like to help you, son, but you’re too young to vote.”  Later at dinner he said to his wife, Mary, “Pass the gravy, Ma, and what’s the score of the Bears-Lions game?”

Tad went to bed without supper that night while Jack self-medicated with more corn kernels.

The Book of Sirach offers praise to the Lord saying: “And now, bless the God of all, who everywhere has worked great wonders, who fosters the people’s growth and deals with us according to his mercy.”

Thanksgiving Day became a federal holiday when, during the height of the U.S. Civil War, President Lincoln proclaimed it a national day of “Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Today the traditional holiday turkey is thankful for having received its pardon. While nearly 50 million turkeys are served up every Thanksgiving (I prefer it deep fried), two lucky gobblers are given stays of execution.  In 1989 President George H.W. Bush remarked that the turkey appeared “understandably nervous,” but added, “Let me assure you, that these fine turkeys will not end up on anyone’s dinner table.  They are granted a presidential pardon right now.”  The birds, so dumb they didn’t know they were turkeys were very grateful, but what about the 50 million minus two that didn’t get off?

President Lincoln wasn’t heartless.  Listening to the boy’s pleas to spare Jack from his culinary fate, the Great Emancipator granted a reprieve and freed it, establishing the tradition.

“The year that is drawing to its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. They are gracious gifts from the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy,” Lincoln aforesaid.

That was a stretch.  The American Civil War suffered more causalities, 625,000—than all other conflicts engaged in by the United States to this day.  Even in the midst of the war our homeland had the presence of mind to be grateful for the blessings she received as one nation under God.

Freedom is exercised in relationships between human beings and the Creator.  Every person, created in the image of God, has the natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being.  The right to exercise freedom, especially in moral and religious matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of the human person.  Those rights must be recognized and protected by civil authorities within the limits of the common good and the public order.   

Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.

Gratitude works both ways.  Grateful for what we have, and grateful for what we don’t have.  The biopsy turned out to be benign.  They have passed away but are no longer suffering.  We made the mortgage payment this month.  Sure, my commute is a half-an hour longer but thank God I found another job.

We live as one nation under God; the forebears knew this and they abandoned our country to Providence.  Revisionist historians pervert that truth but the true story, His-Story, cannot be denied because God can’t lie and God can’t die.  Enjoy the football and the pumpkin pie but go easy on the bird.    

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