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SHIELDS: Thanksgiving -- The Holiday You Have to Love

Thanksgiving remains the most American of all our holidays. Thanksgiving belongs to everyone. It is truly an ecumenical day without sectarian divide. To fully celebrate Thanksgiving, you do not have to belong to any particular religious group or tradition, or for that matter, to belong to any religious group or tradition.No costumes or expensive purchases required. No loud music or forced late-night gaiety or painful next-morning hangover. Happy Thanksgiving.

Even in this fourth consecutive winter of economic discontent and dislocation, I believe there are many reasons to be thankful on Nov. 24, 2011. Here are just a few reasons I am grateful.

I am thankful that no cable news channel has yet come up with the most self-absorbed program imaginable: A Show All About the Media -- Where Members of the Media Discuss the Role of the Media in the Continuing Media Coverage of the Media.

Recalling that Thomas Jefferson, the man who gave this nation our citizenship papers, once wrote: "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." I am personally appreciative that we have never been forced to make that choice. And I continue to believe that the next, new chapter to be written in American journalism will not be Chapter Nine.

I am happy that I have yet to be "bitten" by the vampire craze.

I am encouraged that so many countries of the world -- from Eastern Europe to the Pacific -- have been inspired by U.S. democracy and chosen to emulate our model in some form in their own constitutions. But I am happy that, in all those newer democracies, not a single one of them has decided to copy our disastrous Electoral College.

I am thankful that Paul Edward Valentine Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman, two remarkable actors, continue to make great movies.

I am grateful that on Thanksgiving Day, to cover those awkward conversational dead-spots occasionally encountered, we have a terrific football game with the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, undefeated this season, traveling to Detroit to take on the improving Lions. After that, the Dallas Cowboys against the Miami Dolphins, followed, if you're up to it, by the University of Texas against Texas A&M.

I appreciate American ingenuity and know that it is only a matter of time before some marketing genius comes up with the one fragrance that would make every woman irresistible to most men -- a perfume that smells like a brand-new car!

While I continue to miss him keenly, I am happy that I had as a friend a man as witty and wise as the late John Reilly, who so brilliantly deflated the self-important personal assistant/palace guard-type who, often with a faux-British accent, officiously asks, "Can I tell him the subject of your call?" Reilly's answer(s): "You can tell him I'm calling with the judge's ruling on his alimony payments," or, "Certainly, I'm calling with the confidential results of his blood and drug tests."

I appreciate that not all the audiences at the Republican presidential debates were so mean that they would loudly heckle the Special Olympics.

I am grateful that nobody knows that I was such a rube when I first came to Washington that I thought the Majority Whip was a leather bar in the Bay area.

We all ought to be grateful for this piece of wisdom: If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving is not for you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.