THE THANKSGIVING OF THE EMPTY CHAIR
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. - This is a strange Thanksgiving, my friends. It is the Thanksgiving of the empty chair.
The empty chair is a powerful symbol, and searching the Web, I found it has many meanings. It is the chair a dying man places next to his bed so Jesus can sit while he talks to Him; his body is found with his head lying in the lap of the chair. It is a prayer for Jews estranged from their religion to come together on Passover. It is a place for Cuban political prisoners to sit when they are freed.
It is for an old woman who refuses to return to her Greek homeland after 50 years, because she knows she will not find her childhood there. It is the title of both a detective novel and a 200-year-old book of aphorisms by a Hasidic master. To the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Allies program at Washington State University, it is for the "missing face," for "those among us who feel unable to speak out."
Today, it stands for the person who went to work in the morning and never came home, or the person who got on a jet plane that would not have a soft landing, or the soldier fighting faraway from home.
This Thanksgiving, almost all of us have an empty chair.
But this Thanksgiving is also a special time for gratitude. We give thanks for those who are still here, even though they have driven us crazy most of the year, and for what is most precious to us, no matter how small or trivial it may appear to others.
Everyone has their own special list of things to be thankful for. I don't usually make Thanksgiving lists, but this year it seemed like the right thing to do.
- Although I fear what might happen to the women of Afghanistan next, I'm grateful that they can, if they like, take off those dreadful cages called burqas, walk in the streets without being beaten, and participate once again in the social and political life of their country. The burqa is designed to hide women's grace so men don't become distracted. But the way fundamentalists treat women - whether in Afghanistan or America - always reminds me of a story about Golda Meir, the late Israeli prime minister. After a rash of rapes in the country, the Knesset decided to enforce a curfew on all women after 10 p.m. When Meir heard about it, she was astonished and asked, "Why not have a curfew for the men?"
- I'm glad, too, that the men of Afghanistan can shave off their beards if they want. But what if the tide turns again? Remember, the Northern Alliance was so evil when it ruled the country that people begged the Taliban to take over. What happened next reminds me of that scene in Woody Allen's "Bananas," where the new Latin American dictator speaks to his people. He decrees that from then on, everyone would speak Swedish and wear their underpants on the outside. It's about absolute power corrupting absolutely, and we have to watch closely to make sure it doesn't happen no win Washington.
- I'm thankful that we are not having the kind of war my parents had in World War II, where everything - butter, bread, gasoline, textiles - was rationed. Now, curiously, we're told it's our patriotic duty to shop. But we are in a recession, many people in the country have lost their jobs, and even more are buried under credit card debt already. Remember, the day after Thanksgiving is International Buy Nothing Day.
- I'm thankful that I live in Vermont. I'm grateful that Sen. Jim Jefferds changed his mind and his party, and that we have Rep. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Pat Leahy. I'm grateful that we have civil unions, free-range turkeys, beautiful views, Act 250 to help keep them beautiful, and other rare signs of intelligent life on earth. And I'm grateful that we don't have too much light pollution, so that early last Sunday morning, I could stand on my deck and be awed by the Leonid meteor shower.
- I'm thankful for my warm little house on the hill, my husband, my cat, my family and my friends.
- I'm thankful that New York City still sparkles in the midst of tragedy and mourning.
- I'm thankful that when Flight 587 made its dreadful fall from the sky it missed - but not by much - the hospital in Rockaway where my beloved aunt is recovering once again from surgery.
- I'm thankful for downtown Brattleboro, Vt. Somehow, in just a few short years, it's gone from being a bunch of empty storefronts to a celebration of sophisticated style in antiques, art, clothing and home design.
- I'm thankful for the dedicated staff at the Putney, Vt., Post Office who get the mail through, no matter what condition the roads are in.
- I'm thankful for Brooks Memorial Library, where reference librarians Jerry Carbone and Richard Shuldiner can, in minutes, track down even the most obscure quote.
- I'm thankful for my local paper, the Brattleboro Reformer, which is publishing a lot of truth about the war.
- And I'm especially thankful for Joe Shea and The American Reporter, the first original daily newspaper on the Web. After six years, we are still publishing - mostly through the sheer force of Joe's will.
- Most of all, I'm grateful to all you who read my columns - whether or not you like what I have to say.
Joyce Marcel is a freelance journalist who writes about culture, politics, economics and travel.
Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.