Thanksgiving 2008

I just wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and also to thank all of you who make WPR and this blog a part of your regular reading. I know how crowded the online media landscape is, because I spend quite a bit of time navigating it each day. Which makes your continued support all the more gratifying.

I mentioned to Hampton that there are a few days out of the year that are especially tough for an expat, and Thanksgiving is definitely one of them. I’ve tried to explain the essence of what the holiday means on countless occasions in the years I’ve been here in France, and the difficulty people have in placing it underlines how American a holiday it really is. One friend called it a second July 4th, and got annoyed when I tried to make the distinction between commemorating the origins of a cultural, as opposed to a political, identity. Others expressed surprise when I explained that the unspoken Golden Rule of Thanksgiving is to invite anyone who doesn’t have a place to go, or who is away from home, to share in the warmth of what they had taken for an insular, family occasion. Still others criticized the emphasis on abundance, unaware that what they considered a wasteful meal actually finds its way into countless turkey sandwiches and leftover plates throughout the holiday weekend. And of course none can pass up a mention of the fate of the Indians at that original Thanksgiving meal. Perhaps this year, my traditional explanation over the years will fall on more sympathetic ears: that while America has often failed to live up to its ideals, it has never abandoned the effort to do so.

Between the challenges at home and abroad, there are many reasons to fear the worst these days. But today is a reminder that our national identity was born in adversity, and has overcome many historic challenges in the years since. It’s also a moment to remember that from the very beginning, our cultural narrative places an emphasis on the ways in which our fate is interwoven with the goodwill of other nations and peoples. That’s probably never been more true than today. Fortunately, the American narrative remains a compelling one for people around the globe. And despite the troubled horizon, we still have a great deal to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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