November 24, 2016

Dear Readers,

Today is Thanksgiving Day in America, a time of gatherings, feasting and gratitude across this vast nation and among our compatriots across the world. To celebrate, we are taking a respite from the world’s troubles and, instead, offering a special essay to mark the holiday.

We at DailyChatter wish you a day of peace, happiness and good cheer.

 Phil Balboni, co-executive editor/CEO, DailyChatter

Being Thankful

President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in the darkest days of the Civil War with a proclamation that rang with optimism about the future.

For decades to come, Southerners viewed Thanksgiving as a Yankee holiday, largely created in thanks for the destruction of the Confederacy. It was no coincidence that Thanksgiving as an annual observance began soon after the battle of Gettysburg.

But by the end of the 19th century, Thanksgiving had become truly a national holiday and in the 21st century it stands as perhaps the single greatest unifier of our nation, embraced by every political persuasion from the craziest to the most conventional.

No doubt there are Thanksgiving haters, but they are few compared to the many millions who embrace Thanksgiving and grant a Thanksgiving armistice even to the people who they know are wrong about everything. It’s akin to when the German and British soldiers put down their guns on Christmas Eve in 1914 and traded Christmas Carols across trenches. On Christmas morning, German soldiers emerged from the trenches yelling, “You no shoot, we no shoot,” and some 100,000 men had a day of impromptu truce.

So, in that spirit, on this Thanksgiving, 2016, we at DailyChatter offer you our hope that you will take solace in the blessings of your particular life.

Being thankful can be an exercise in imagination, because blessings come in many forms.

For instance, you can be thankful for what is not.

You can say to yourself, “I am thankful I’m not living in constant fear.” Or “I’m thankful I’m not wanted for murder.”

As a young man, I went through a miserable medical experience and learned the gigantic luxury of not being in pain.

On the positive side of the ledger, it is fitting to think of the staggering odds against each person on Earth being born at all. It took a very specific series of conceptions, marriages, narrow escapes and accidents of every kind for each of us to be here. From the beginning of time, everything had to happen just as it did for the “you” who is reading this to be alive and conscious. Someone similar to you might be here if another sperm had reached an egg on the night you were conceived, but that person would have been your sister or brother, and as you know, they are quite different from you!

As I plumb the possibilities in American history, things to be thankful for are rife.

I am thankful that Benedict Arnold was not successful in his treacherous betrayal of West Point to the British, which might well have cost the Revolution. It was a near thing that his British partner in crime, Captain Andre, was captured by a random group of American soldiers who he stumbled upon shortly before crossing back into British lines. He thought they were British and immediately declared he was as well. A mistake to be thankful for.

I am a Southerner and my ancestors fought for the Confederacy, but I am thankful that Robert E. Lee lost at Gettysburg. Had he won, the Civil War might have resulted in a negotiated settlement that would have created two nations rather than one and preserved slavery for another century.

Similarly, I’m thankful that when the Civil War ended, Robert E. Lee refused to give even slight support to the idea of an ongoing war of attrition. Instead, he loudly and persistently declared that Southerners were now Americans again. Otherwise, thousands of disaffected Rebels might still be fighting the war – even more than some apparently are.

I am thankful that Hitler had the bad judgment to declare war on the United States after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Otherwise, this country might not have declared war on Germany, given its isolationist zealotry at the time.

I’m thankful that my father survived service in WWII in Merrill’s Marauders in Burma and returned to Tennessee, where I was born in the vanguard of the Baby Boom. Like in Saving Private Ryan, he would sometimes mull aloud the mystery of why he was spared when so many were not. There is no proper response to that but thankfulness.

The world, as we all know, is a dangerous place and filled with risk and peril, and there are plenty of disasters averted that belong on one’s Thanksgiving list.

But it is also a world wonderfully full of beauty and kindness and generosity, which is an even longer list.

So on this Thanksgiving Day, let us revel in family and friends and stay mindful of all our blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Alex S. Jones, co-executive editor

DISCOVERIES

Thankful…In Space

Traditional Thanksgiving dishes have become a staple of American culture, and many home-cooks recreate traditional morsels in line with personal preferences by giving recipes their own flare.

They’ve got nothing on scientists at the Space Food Research Facility at Texas A&M, who are taking Thanksgiving innovation to a whole new level.

Their Thanksgiving MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) pouches include varieties like roast turkey, cobbler and candied yams – all prepped, processed, sterilized and heat-sealed for astronauts spending the holiday on the final frontier.

“For many of them (in space), this is kind of a way to connect back to Earth as well,” said. Bonnie Dunbar, a former NASA astronaut and a current professor at Texas A&M.

“Meal times, whether you’re in space, whether you’re exploring or traveling, a special occasion like this takes on a great deal of psychological importance as well.”

Before lift-off, astronauts stop by the kitchen at Johnson’s Space Center in Houston to try out the food they’ll be eating in space. Naturally, in a zero-gravity environment, astronauts eat directly from the pouch.

“The meats are really great,” Dunbar told ABC. “It’s just like Thanksgiving dinner.”