21 November 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

In time for the American Thanksgiving holiday, the BBC posts a dire report from New York City. It makes you wonder what all those people should be thankful for. Obviously many dispensers of charity will say they or the god that inspires them should be thanked, but providing a meal on one day out of 365 seems a small occasion for the kind of gratitude that some people consider their right.

The concept of a Thanksgiving Day as an occasion for general gratitude to God for general generosity toward the United States has, dare I say thankfully, been superseded by a more secular sense of thankfulness toward family members on a day of reunions. The older concept seemed to put people under a sense of obligation, first to thank God and then to repay him with obedience. It's the same mentality that makes conservatives prefer charity to entitlement. The secular holiday is mostly harmless, depending on each family, but for those without families, or for families without resources, the only options are doing without or accepting charity and its accompanying shame. It should be an occasion for national shame that more people turn to charity this year.

Not all charitable givers of dinners tomorrow are vainglorious conservatives. Many have a stronger sense of social justice, but we have to wonder, without gainsaying anyone their Thanksgiving dinners, whether their energies wouldn't be better expended toward ensuring that everyone can eat a decent meal on a regular basis. If people head home from a charity dinner feeling a sense of obligation, it shouldn't be an indebtedness to the people who feed them, but a sense that the country has got to change.

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