Let's give thanks by abstaining

November 27, 1996|By GREGORY KANE

Tomorrow marks yet another celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday, which means this grumpy old man with the large forehead will be grousing as usual.

Mind you, I have nothing against Thanksgiving per se. I think old Abe Lincoln had the right idea back in October of 1863 when he issued his declaration that the last Thursday of November would be one of giving thanks. (And believe me, in October of 1863 Honest Abe had much to be thankful for: Grant's taking Vicksburg, Lee's defeat at Gettysburg, the fact that he finally came to his senses and allowed blacks to enlist in the Union army as soldiers.)

I have two objections to Thanksgiving. The first is the holiday is simply too short. As you read this there are probably some working folks squabbling even at this late date to see who gets the Friday after Thanksgiving off and who will have to drag his or her tired and stuffed butt into work.

The obvious solution, of course, is for Congress to designate the last Thursday and Friday of November as days of Thanksgiving. After all, if God is worth thanking, he's worth thanking at least two days a year. Under this plan, those who stuff themselves Thursday could use Friday to recover. In fact, since we've made Thanksgiving Day the official day of feasting, we can make that Friday the official day of fasting.

Seems logical, doesn't it, that we would thank God for our blessings with a fast? It would more than make up for the annual gorge-a-thon we have come to know as Thanksgiving. That would be my second objection to Thanksgiving: It has become a day of overindulgence, not thanks. And overindulgence is something we as a nation need less of.

Our hedonism already has led to a rising teen pregnancy rate and a drug crisis that is the scourge of industrialized nations. The nation's No. 1 drug problem is not cocaine, crack or heroin but that good old standby, alcohol. Is it coincidence that the U.S. liquor industry chose this month to announce it was abandoning its more than 40-year voluntary ban on radio and television advertising? This is something we truly should not be thankful for.

Liquor moguls justify their act by claiming discrimination. Makers of beer and wine can advertise on radio and television, they pout, so why shouldn't they? It is the old "I'm persecuted" defense, which is usually the first refuge of a scoundrel.

Americans should be doing their damnedest to get beer and wine commercials off radio and television. Liquor moguls should have stuck to their ban. You would think the booze merchants have no clue that alcohol is our No. 1 drug problem. But they do. It's just that they don't care. Americans are willing to indulge in almost anything -- especially if it's destructive to their health -- and pay for the privilege. The booze peddlers are waiting in the wings with their hands out ready to take our money.

And with their clever use of commercials, beer, wine and liquor producers will have plenty of money to make. Already we see beer commercials that imply the beverage is so sublime that even ants and frogs can't do without it. It's the party libation. Drink and be happy. In fact, it's only by drinking that you can be happy, our culture implies. That's why nightclubs and bars insist on calling designated time slots for drinking "happy hour."

Our young people pick up on these conflicting messages, of course. They realize that when we tell them to "just say no" to drugs while at the same time raising alcohol consumption to the level of a near cultural imperative that we're full of a well known-synonym for fertilizer. If there has been a rise in teen-age drug use it's perfectly understandable. Our own flagrant hypocrisy probably helps drive teens to first booze and then dope.

We might turn that around by changing the way we celebrate Thanksgiving. Let the Thursday remain as a day of thanks and FTC feasting. But let Congress pass a law designating that Friday as a day of thanks and that all-but-forgotten aspect of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition: fasting. We'll abstain from food and alcoholic beverages to show that as a nation we can control our passion for overindulgence.

Sounds like a cockamamie idea, doesn't it? But it is one that just might save some of the 17,000 lives lost annually to drunken driving.

Pub Date: 11/27/96

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