Due to recent exposure to the transmogrifying work methodology known as lean, I feel compelled to eliminate the waste from my list of things to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. So by implementing the lean process for eliminating waste known as 6s, I hereby offer five items that I will be humbly telling God, "Thanks, but no thanks."
Tomatoes. There are allegedly six of them sitting in our refrigerator at this very moment. They are firm, red, and utterly tasteless. This is what the American tomato has come to, which is all the more the shame because the tomato, surprising to many, is native to this land of ours. It was our ripe tomato that launched a thousand and one pasta dishes in Italy. Interesting literary note…when Salman Rushdie—no slouch as a writer—submitted his manuscript for The Enchantress of Florence to his publisher, it was a sharp-eyed copyeditor who told him he couldn’t have his characters dining on tomatoes because as of the 15th century tomatoes had not yet arrived in the (ho-ho) Old World. Anyway, it’s the Old World that still does honor to this most versatile of fruits. In this country, the tomato is one more piece of mass-produced garbage designed for the eye rather than the tongue. To paraphrase Randy Newman, Only God can make a tomato; only man can make it taste like sawdust.
The Second Amendment. Speaking of the Old World, I actually found myself defending the right to bear arms in Europe once. This was in the midst of the George W. Bush/Dick Cheney reign of dumb cum evil. Living under a presidency you don’t trust will cause the paranoia to strike deep and into the most rational of minds it will creep. So I am not totally without empathy for my heavily-armed conservative brethren. The difference is that although the Bush presidency helped me appreciate how one might contemplate a resort to arms, it never drove me to actually resorting to arms. I’m proud to say I was able to endure that eight-year abomination that was the Bush presidency without so much as picking up a Guns & Ammo magazine, let alone an actual gun. Call me crazy, but I just couldn’t get myself to the level of hysteria where I could see myself storming the White House with an AK-47. The French and Italians who listened to my defense of the Second Amendment on the grounds of the hallucinatory need for local militias to resist an oppressive federal government got a hearty laugh out of that. “Wasn’t that your Civil War?” they asked. Indeed it was. Dixie local militias against Yankee local militias. The sorry truth is, local militias haven’t been any use whatsoever against foreign invaders or autocratic rule since before the Civil War. In fact, if we add the 750,000 Civil War dead to the hideous spate of mass killings in just the past few years…from Columbine to Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook, we can see that government-sanctioned, well-armed local militia is a delusion most macabre. Worse, it is far from done doing severe damage to our national peace and tranquility. So pass the gravy and screw the Second Amendment.
Capitalism. This Frankenstein monster of an economic system has tossed our sweet, curly locks democracy into the lake. With the Supreme Court declaring that corporate entities, wholly comprised of legal documents and ledger balances, are entitled to the same rights as flesh and blood human beings; with Congress designing laws to the dictate of corporate lobbyists; and with ordinary citizens alternately quaking in awe or fear of their corporate masters, the founding dream that withstood burial by international communism is now an innocent little drowning victim. Unlike people, capitalism is soulless and heartless. Its unbending guiding principle is the profit-motive. Without the people’s will to regulate it, it will do what it has done—create a gap between the have lots and have less that is simply unsustainable for any society that wishes to be anything more than Saudi Arabia with free porn.
Freedom. Just another word for nothing left to lose? If only. It is now the most bullshit word in the American lexicon… used by Wall Street greed heads to justify their ongoing pillage of the American economy; used by NRA gun nuts to rationalize armed assaults on our shopping malls, college campuses, and elementary schools; used by military recruiters to seduce 20-year olds into giving up the best years of their lives for the chance to shoot and be shot at by exotic people in foreign lands; used by niggardly politicians to justify taking food and healthcare away from their most needy citizens. People give up their freedoms every day…when they get married, take jobs, buy airline tickets, get drivers’ licenses. The idea that freedom is this absolute value stretched from sea to shining sea that every American lives for and is willing to die for is the biggest lie we tell ourselves as a nation. If it meant all that much to us, we wouldn’t have spent the last 20 years handing it over like lunch money to schoolyard bullies.
Black Friday. Standing in line at midnight on Thanksgiving outside Walmart waiting for a bargain on tomatoes and assault rifles would pretty much epitomize this entire post. So, no, I won’t be giving thanks for Black Friday either.