Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Last Night I had the Strangest Dream

11/23/06

Living in these United States, the most affluent and powerful country in the world, we have much to be thankful for.

But what a weird country this has become. Where O.J. Simpson is reportedly paid $3.5 million advance to write a book about how he would have killed his wife (if, of course, he'd actually done so). Where the character Borat is applauded at a real rodeo somewhere in the South as he whips the crowd into a frenzy with his mock patriotic call to kill the men, women and children of Iraq (presumably leaving only dogs and chickens to appreciate its much vaunted democracy). Where we celebrate a holiday of giving and thanks by lining up at malls the following morning for a trampling frenzy of -- what else -- buying ("Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for mall aisles filled with stuff ..."). Where young adults at times seem more invested in reality TV than in reality itself.

In its way, of course, Thanksgiving as a holiday is a bit weird itself. We recognize and celebrate the sharing and kinship of the Pilgrims and Native Americans they found here, those same Native Americans who in the 250 years that followed were systematically annihilated by the descendents of those same Pilgrims and other European immigrants. Oh dear.

But suspect or not, Thanksgiving remains a wonderful holiday. It's a chance to eat all day, to share stories and laughter with friends or extended family, to remember loved ones who are gone and renew ties with old friends who've drifted away.

I just hope as we sit down this Thanksgiving that we do more than feel thankful for what we have, do more than say thanks for those who've come before us, do more than bask in the warmth of the company and the taste of good food and wine.

For this has been an exceptionally ugly year on a globe always riven by some war or another.
Whether in Iraq or Sudan, Lebanon or Afghanistan, the world remains waist deep in violence and suffering. What would happen, I wonder, if each of us this year pledged to do one small thing to alleviate suffering, took one small action to end wars? What if?

As I drove to the store yesterday to buy a few last minute groceries, the voice of Joan Baez on folk radio reminded me that idealism never completely vanishes from the political landscape, not even in an age of cynicism. She was singing a song I remember from childhood, a song with a message at least as urgent today as it was then. You'll know the words:

"Last night I had the strangest dream I'd ever dreamed before. I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war."

I can't say I have a lot of faith in putting an end to war anytime soon. But perhaps we can find some small solace, give thanks if you will, to the fact that the overwhelmingly negative reaction to Fox News and its nauseating celebration of O.J. Simpson forced the network, and the publisher it owns, to cancel both the Simpson two-part interview and the book for which he was paid.

Take note Borat.

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