(As usual, the arrangement with syndicators means these columns appear here a week after their newspaper release. This is an obvious case in point)
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FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, NOV. 22, 2011
BY BOB FRANKEN
For so many, Thanksgiving has largely become Black Friday Eve, the day before merchants hope for a bang-up first day of Christmas sales that push their year to the profitable side of the ledger. In the black. Get it?
Oh yeah, Thanksgiving is also the day that tradition sets aside to express gratitude for the bounty. Unfortunately, far too many are not sharing in it. They face a Bleak Friday, and, for that matter, every day. Even if they swallow their pride and show up to accept the turkey and dressings provided by the prosperous looking for a feel-good moment, most of the time they wonder where the next meal is coming from.
There are even reports that some Salvation Army chapters, along with various other agencies that serve the destitute, have run out of turkeys and the other fixings this year. As the number of those in dire straits grows, the contributions diminish.
That is the uncomfortable truth that should erase the smug glow. As we go over the hills and through the woods to Grandmother's house, we need to take stock of those of all ages who have lost their houses and/or are among the nearly one in 10 who can't find work and/or the millions of others who are struggling to make ends meet in lesser jobs. Let's also remember there are many more millions who have simply given up looking.
Although we'd love to do our patriotic duty with celebration and satiation, can we callously turn away from the nearly one in six in this nation who are mired in desperation? As tabulated by the Census Bureau, 50 million are officially living in poverty, including their children. Are we so desensitized by the constant stories of excess versus hardship that they no longer register?
Does that help explain why the Occupy Wall Street protests are dissolving? They were propounding a message about the financial stranglehold the super-rich have on society. But apparently the media attention to the nation's “99-1” gap was really just momentary, as we focused on the novelty of the ragtag encampments. The “one-percenters” waited in their gated communities for the movement to disintegrate and be swept away by their government and police forces.
They control a political system that has demonstrated such an inability to promote the “general welfare” part of its constitutional mandate that it has lost credibility with nine out of 10 Americans. Poll after poll registers disgust at the contortions, as the sides go nowhere in the battle to right the system, to tighten up the rules of commerce and require the wealthy to pay a fairer share of the taxes. A “what's-the-use?” mind-set has taken over, a sense of futility that makes it even easier for those who hoard more resources than they can ever use to deny them to those who need them to simply survive. With a few well-placed crumbs of campaign funding from petty cash, they turn public officials into their petty private puppets.
Yes, we've heard all this before, but while uncomfortable, we need to consider it in the context of Thanksgiving. As we mark the original feast of the pilgrims who fled to these shores in search of fair opportunity and reward, their dream is being overcome by the harsh reality of unfairness in which opportunity and reward are stolen. They certainly cannot be replaced by the occasional holiday charity. We all have a right to everyday security, and we all have a responsibility to demand it from those we elect and those who have benefited from a society that has made it possible for them to prosper. Otherwise, Thanksgiving Day becomes just another cliché.
© 2011 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.