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As the name for an alternative holiday, it lacks something, in my opinion, but it does allow for sidestepping the issue of having to thank God or a higher power for anything on Thanksgiving Day. It also allows us to maintain the semblance of gratitude and community spirit while denying and denouncing the essential.

D.M. Murdock, known also as Acharya S, author of The Christ Conspiracy and a growing list of de-mystifying books, has circulated in her newsletter today a link to something she wrote for Examiner.com — she's the Freethought Examiner under Religion and Spirituality — "Giving thanks to unsung heros." Her list of those needing to be thanked includes: 1) firefighters, police and paramedics, 2) emergency room doctors, nurses and staff, 3) prison guards, mental institution doctors and staff, hospice workers, coroners and undertakers, 4) military personnel, especially the rank-and-file soldiers, 5) sanitation and social workers, 6) farmworkers, truck drivers and railroad workers, and 7) teachers and school staff. All of them jobs that she finds "not only dangerous but also traumatizing, gory, gross and scary." To me, this seems a lot like celebrating Fathers Day subject to paternity tests, or Mothers Day for the mothers only of those we happen to admire.

Last Sunday, a small group of us struggled through the Bob's Big Boy opening rush in Morro Bay. Bob's used to be an ordinary restaurant. Now it basks in the golden glow of retro or collectible. This rather flimsy imitation of the once soaring post and beam neighborhood monuments was packed. According to the waiter, they had three workers doing nothing but hand scooping ice cream their entire shift for an endless, multicolored stream of shakes and malts. I felt almost guilty asking how much longer my chocolate malt would be. How about them? How about the waiters and waitresses who looked positively overwhelmed by the ebb and flow of hungry, demanding humanity? Or, how about the dishwashers, the busboys, the late night cleanup crew, or the manager who looked like he hadn't slept in a week? Which of these jobs would you want? Are they not public servant enough? The list for Examiner.com is an apple pie, though the strawberry pie looked really good, sequence of clichés meant to distract and obfuscate.

Prison guards? Well, sure. Let's hear it for prison guards. Anyone here from New York? Your father worked where? On the railroad? Let's hear it for railroad workers. Farmworkers? Where would we be without farmworkers? Undertakers? Sure, why not?

If she had proposed giving thanks for these unsung heros — I'm not sure that calling them heros or unsung is exactly correct — in June or July, we might wonder what got into her. A story about funding cuts for emergency rooms? A big fire down the street? A poignant rerun of Quincy ? But this isn't June or July, it's the day before Thanksgiving, a day that turns inevitably toward the things she most abhors.

I remember her being somewhat indignant in the books that are now packed away so I can't quote from them on short notice about the Church subsuming local holidays and heros, bending things to suit their lust for power and control. Christmas, the story of the birth of Jesus, for example, was made to replace the pagan rituals and associations surrounding the Hibernal solstice. That's something to be indignant about, I suppose. Except that pagan stories supplanted prior stories. That's how it works. History belongs to the victor. But, proposing — of course she didn't exactly propose — to replace thanking God with thanking firemen is not so much a power play on her part as attempting to play on our stupidity. She's attempting to do much the same thing she complains about. Does she really think we would unwittingly supplant Thanksgiving Day with a Godless Thanks to Those Who Do Society's Unpleasant Jobs Day?

Thanks, but no thanks.
 
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