Thanksgiving Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/22/2018: Turkeys And Vampire-Slayers

Happy Thanksgiving!

Now don’t let any “turkeys,” related or not, spoil it for you. This is a uniquely American holiday, celebrating our history, journey, values and culture, remembering the value of family, and extolling  qualities that Americans should all try to embrace in their daily lives: generosity, empathy, charity, loyalty, perspective, respect and gratitude. Once it was regarded as a religious holiday, but as the culture has gradually rejected religion, for better or worse, and not without the full complicity of organized religions whose conduct would repel anyone, the holiday has struggled to find new moorings. Its value as a yearly ethical touchpoint makes that struggle worth continuing.

1. Speaking of Thanksgiving “turkeys”...A helpful Twitter-user compiled these shots from various progressive websites and blogs:


One of the things I have long been thankful for was the excellent training I received at our family dinner table from my proudly iconoclastic father, who could argue any side of any issues, and did, just to teach his kids that they better have a firm grasp of facts, logic, language, and critical thinking before making any assertion, lest they be made to look like fools. He also taught the value of an open mind, and resisting lazy conventional wisdom without foundation, like, say “Trump is a racist.”

2. This one is Obama’s fault. Though heated political arguments were always a potential part of family gatherings, it was Obama’s administration and his allies that made the disgusting decision to weaponize the holidays, commanding their human drones to arrive at gatherings ready to argue the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, and providing brochures and videos to help them accomplish the mission. (Bulletin from Justice Roberts: “There are no Obama Thanksgivings or Trump Thanksgivings!”)

3. To save you some time, since it’s Thanksgiving…The reactions to the obnoxious array above on the Instapundit comment stream contains a lot of excellent reactions. (Boy, I wish I could have assistant bloggers who kept posting content from midnight to dawn every day…):

  • The myriad complaints of the Left about this holiday bring some advice to mind.

If you resent cooking for everyone you shouldn’t be doing it. Cooking is a way to give love, an expression of generosity. Let someone else have that gift.
If you have a pressing need to correct your evil relatives on science, politics, and virtue, you are being proud, judgemental, and self-centered. Try listening. Open-minded, compassionate, and loving are better traits for you and them.
If you feel overwhelmed all day, you are not feeling gratitude, the antidote for all burdens. It’s called Thanksgiving.
If you can’t put up with your own family, you are intolerant. You haven’t been practicing, have you? There’s a reason we call it practicing tolerance.

Happy Thanksgiving. I mean both of those words.

  • For the benefit of anyone who is interested, here is how you deal with people who complain that Thanksgiving is racist, sexist, whaever-ist:

1. Do not invite them to your home for dinner.
2. If you have to invite them to your home for dinner, explain to them politely that insulting you by belittling your values, race, religion, etc; will have unpleasant consequences.
3. If they nevertheless insult you, say you are racist, say you are greedy for not wanting to pay their medical bills, etc; stop the dinner.
4. Take all their food away.
5. Tell them that their share of the food will now be given to someone who will appreciate it, ex: a homeless person.
6. Very politely, show them to the door.
7. Tell them to leave and advise them to order a pizza next thanksgiving.

There. Problem solved.

  • At Thanksgiving such people are forced to leave the bubble they have constructed and deal with the real world. While in academia (for example) they can protect themselves from being confronted with ideas that make them uncomfortable by contradicting their prejudices, in their family environment they cannot. The danger in this is that they might actually start listening to their relatives and start thinking for themselves. So they are taught to dehumanize their own relatives and think of them as opponents and stereotypes.

They are being told to assume that they are morally, socially and intellectually superior to them and that the proper responses are to instruct, oppose or ignore them – anything but listen to them and consider that people who are more experienced than them and who have maintained careers, paid a mortgage, raised a family and in short accepted and fulfilled responsibilities for years might know something they don’t.

  • I see none of those headlines list tips for black people to talk to their racist relatives who hate white people. And gay people. And I don’t see any lists of tips for gay people to talk to their gay friends who hate Christians and straights. It all seems a bit one-sided to me.

4. It’s a good thing narcissism is no longer considered a mental illness, because Buffy would have it…Sarah Michelle Geller, best and more or less only known for her portrayal of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the cult TV series, ran away with this year’s Thanksgiving Ethics Dunce title with this post on Instagram:

Reading the small print from Geller: “I’m just going to pin these up all over my house as a reminder not to overeat on Thursday.” Yeah, I’m going to post photos of me when I was 30 all over the house too, and hope not eating too much in a single meal makes me younger too.  Geller is 41, and that photo is at least ten years old. She just wanted an excuse to post a flattering picture of herself, which is pretty much what Instagram is about: a breeding ground for the shallow, appearance-obsessed and narcissists. She wasn’t really fat-shaming, which is what the Social Media Outrage Mob ultimately forced her to apologize for. The has-been actress was celebrating herself, and exploiting Thanksgiving to do it. Her latest endeavor, according the Wikipedia, was publishing a cook book.

How ironic.

5. Not to be  a downer, but President Kennedy was assassinated on this date. I know it has happened before, but celebrating Thanksgiving on November 22 is extremely dissonnant for me, and I assume others. Since the date of the holiday isn’t fixed, Congress should make a special provision that the Friday after the 22nd is Thanksgiving on the rare years this happens.

28 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/22/2018: Turkeys And Vampire-Slayers

  1. 5: I dunno, I think that is an overreaction, esp with the usual comments about JFK here. Would we consider canceling a holiday if it happened to fall on the day of a President’s death in office? How many even know the date of Lincoln’s or FDR’s deaths? It’s a more visceral date for people who were alive then, but I feel more for Pearl Harbor.

    And on a practical side it remains probably the most secular and American holiday, *because* it is part of a holiday that makes a four day break for many workers and schools, Other major holidays change the day of the week all the time so they cannot build as much travel and family into the customs. If it moved to Friday, people would not have the time to travel and it would be precedent to shrink the holiday for $$$ reasons. (we already have too much sales hype) We very much need the reminders of family, tradition, and togetherness more than a cheap TV.

    • I agree regarding JFK. That you are sad does not mean you can’t be thankful. Even more strongly, you should be thankful, even if you are sad (or mournful).

    • I think we should never have Thanksgiving on December 7th, a day that shall live in infamy.

      Moving it to a Friday simply means everyone gets the next Monday off instead of Thursday. Seems pretty foolproof to me.

  2. I’m in between baking pumpkin pie and making cranberry sauce – but wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving Jack and thank you for this blog. Since discovering it I have learned so much about law & have become a lot better at recognizing my own & others biases & unethical rationalizations.

    Last night discussing family gatherings with a friend I experienced something along the lines of “…anything but listen to them.” She told me about a shirt that said “We’ve heard enough from old white men” thinking that someone like me would appreciate such bigotry. I kindly explained that it was the old white male members of one side of my family who loved me & taught me how to be a woman of substance – while the other side of my black/brown family ignored and abandoned me most of my life. It burst her bubble. Later I realized just how hateful her comment was. Racist, sexist, ageist…but the currently acceptable kind. A sad state, but I refuse to believe all is lost.

    Wishing all EA readers a happy peaceful day and remembering in spite of the strife, that as long as we can think for ourselves, there is always something to be grateful for.

  3. I love how my barber address people bringing up politics and getting snippy with each other.

    He loudly addresses the shop “My parents taught me that two topics of off limits for polite conversation: politics and religion. Since your breaking the ice by speaking politics, I’d like to ask all of you, how’s your relationship with Jesus?”

    He’s a born again Christian, but not obnoxious about it. He’s got the believability that he could, so people go quiet at the question.

  4. 5)

    Your friendly yearly reminder that Oswald acted alone and that, since World War 2, along with 9/11, comprise the top two most traumatic experiences for the American psyche (I’m really not sure which one ranks as #1)…

    Also, glad that we get the traditional battery of holiday ethics posts such as the movie ethics reviews and discussion of holiday music (which I’ll do the survey later in December).

    We’ve already watched White Christmas once.

    Are there any ethics takeaways (takesaway…?) from Miracle of 34th Street?

  5. Also a friendly reminder that the 1st Thanksgiving celebrated a bountiful harvest as a result of private ownership of arable land and individual enterprise and personal reward of labor after several years that a socialist experiment nearly killed every last pilgrim colonist.

  6. 1, 2, 3)

    I wonder if there is an overlap between the circle of “people who are willing to use Thanksgiving to berate relatives with differing politics” and the circle of “people who are actually invited to Thanksgiving with relatives”?

    It can’t be that big can it?

  7. 2. If you have to invite them to your home for dinner, explain to them politely that insulting you by belittling your values, race, religion, etc; will have unpleasant consequences.
    4. Take all their food away.
    5. Tell them that their share of the food will now be given to someone who will appreciate it, ex: a homeless person.
    6. Very politely, show them to the door.

    Point 2 is unclear. It would be sound if it were done up front, as part of the ground rules made clear no later than they accept the invitation, but it would be thoroughly unethical – indeed, not an obligation on them – if it were sprung as an ambush on them at a later stage, possibly even after they arrived. That is because “explain”, here, implies providing specifics about what you (as host) would consider “belittling your values, race, religion, etc;” that would not anyway be generally considered covered as part of normal polite conduct as a guest, specifics about your own local mores. Normal polite conduct would not need to be explained at all, so much so that doing that might itself cause avoidable offence.

    Point 4 is either wrong or redundant. While they are guests, they should not be treated like that. Unless and until they are declared personae non gratae and shown the door, nothing suitable to a guest should be withdrawn – and what happens to that food after that is neither here nor there. That makes point 5 inappropriate too, from not fitting the situation.

    Point number 6 is a contradiction in terms if either of points 4 or 5 is put into effect.

  8. Thanks for the mention of the Kennedy assassination, Jack – and for Michael West’s expansion on the subject. I am of the age to remember the shock (nothing like it for my generation). The end of November holds another traumatic memory: the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk (two men I had the privilege of knowing slightly and admiring very much), who were shot and killed in San Francisco City Hall on November 27, 1978. It does not override the Thanksgiving celebrations but the three crucial deaths lend a depth to the day that, to me and my friends at least, bring us more firmly together. In my case, the focus, however brief, on “worse things” brought a time of closer harmony with the living people I love and respect and a reminder that there are larger issues than the ones we fight about.

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