My father plagiarized himself frequently, most notably in his Thanksgiving columns. In 1934, 1936 and 1938, he wrote about the Pilgrim fathers, who in 1623 faced “their second winter of hunger, cold and peril” until, after a day of prayer, sighted “a ship loaded with friends and supplies.” He ended every one of these columns with the question of whether “Negroes” should be thankful. He would give a nod to the Scottsboro Boys, who were incarcerated in Alabama. A favorite refrain was that the “Negro’s winter is still on” and the ideals of safety and happiness continued to elude American blacks.
In 1939 his column still included these elements, but had a more optimistic tone. That year, President Franklin Roosevelt decided that Thanksgiving should be celebrated the next to the last Thursday of the month, rather than the last Thursday, which had been American tradition dating back to the end of the Civil War.
“Now, in the year of 1939, Americans find themselves sandwiched between two Thanksgiving Days,” Ebenezer wrote. According to my father about half of the nation’s bosses “preferred to adhere to the traditional (Lincoln’s). . .”
Apparently, my father thought the whole debate was silly.
“It is safe to say that the idea of giving thanks on this day has been lost in its routine acceptance. It is now rather a day of feasting. And to hear the opposition tell it, one is almost moved to believe that there IS a difference between gormandizing vittles and guzzling corn liquor on one Thursday as against another Thursday. But this is a Democracy.”
Under Stalin, Hitler or Mussolini, he asserted, the “thanksgiving edict” would have come without choice and accepted with the “clicking of the heels. Dictators’ proclamations have but one ‘alternative’: yes or YES. . . Not in America. And that’s a good reason for giving thanks – any day.”
Ebenezer gave his customary nod to the Scottsboro boys. Five of the original nine were still imprisoned. “Should the question of Thanksgiving Day penetrate those prison walls, those lads could well ask: What have we to be thankful for on the 23rd or the 30th of November?” he asked. “Their oppressors quibble over trifles.”
“Quibbling over when one should give thanks is hardly productive of the spirit of gratefulness – at that. “
As for me, I’m giving thanks every day that America is changing, as evidenced by the recent election. Thankful that more Americans will have access to health care and that women will have agency over their own bodies. That race-baiting and big money don’t always prevail and that the Supreme Court’s activist slide will be slowed.
No doubt, our nation is still deeply divided between those who “want to take their country back” and those who want to move forward. But, as Ebenezer said, “This is Democracy.”
By the way, I was going to wait until tomorrow to add a photo of President Obama pardoning a turkey, but I thought this video said more about thankfulness.