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Wednesday, February 20 , 2019, 6:56 pm | Mostly Cloudy 51º


Mark Shields: Thanksgiving — the Near-Perfect Holiday

No going into debt, no religious divides — and there's so much to be thankful for

To celebrate Thanksgiving, this most American of this country’s holidays, you don’t have to go into debt. You don’t have to dress up, or rent or buy any expensive costume. Nobody makes a financial killing on this Thursday in November. OK, Ocean Spray, the cranberry company in my native Massachusetts, makes a buck or two, but the proper observance of Thanksgiving doesn’t tempt any one of us anywhere to go Chapter 11 — and nobody risks losing his eyesight to a cherry bomb.

Mark Shields
Mark Shields

Thanksgiving is truly ecumenical. There is no sectarian divide to the day. Believers and nonbelievers are all welcome. There are, by my count, only four must menu items: turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing and pumpkin pie.

And while joblessness and anxiety remain too often uninvited visitors to our families in 2010, I still believe there is much to be thankful for.

I am thankful that TV’s The Office, with the delightful Steve Carell, is available in reruns.

I am grateful that we in the United States have Social Security and Medicare to take want and fear out of old age. I can remember, as a child, my hometown’s “poor farm,” where the indigent worked for food and shelter and where the elderly indigent, without relatives to take them in, were taken in.

I am appreciative that we are now able to get delicious melons in the middle of winter.

I am thankful that since 1970 life expectancy worldwide, according to the recent Human Development Report from the United Nations, has increased to 70 years from 59 years, that 40 years ago, just 55 percent of school-age children were in elementary and secondary schools, and now that figure has climbed to 70 percent of children.

Also good news: Since 1970, literacy in the developing world has increased 61 percent.

I am happy that Donald Trump is reportedly considering running for president in the Republican primaries. I look forward to seeing who will be the first GOP candidate to pull, metaphorically speaking, Trump’s rug “out from over him.”

I am grateful that we have football on Thanksgiving Day. There are traditional high-school and college rivalries, but for some families who get together only once a year, the Thursday pro schedule of the New England Patriots against the Detroit Lions followed by the Dallas Cowboys against the New Orleans Saints and the Cincinnati Bengals against the New York Jets could cover some awkward silences. To say nothing of rescuing the rest of us from boring Uncle Eugene and his theory about how left-handed agnostic Presbyterians are conspiring to take over the hometown Rotary Club — or PTA.

I am thankful that documentarian Charles Ferguson, narrator Matt Damon and Philadelphia Eagles owners Christina and Jeffrey Lurie all collaborated to make Inside Job — the riveting “whodunit ” movie that explains how the financial meltdown of 2007-08 that has so wounded Americans happened and who is to blame.

I appreciate that former Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., is thinking — once again — about running for the White House. Gingrich argues against same-sex marriage. The thrice-wed former House speaker makes the case that marriage should be only between a man and a woman ... and a woman ... and a woman. I covered his first presidential flirtation in New Hampshire in 1995. I would be surprised if he does enter the race in 2012. Gingrich has always been a little bit like the Yugo or the Ford Pinto: Looks pretty good, but just doesn’t run.

I am grateful for wrinkle-free, no-iron shirts and for breath mints and checkout lines limited to customers with “15 or fewer” items in their baskets. Happy Thanksgiving.

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him.

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