The holiday season for me begins when I mail in my donation to The Bowery Mission in NYC. Founded in 1879, it has served the hungry, the homeless and the unemployed. This year during Thanksgiving week, the Mission will serve an unprecedented 8,000 meals with all of the traditional trimmings, ending with pumpkin pie. Each day during this week hungry crowds will gather at large communal tables seated next to nameless and unfamiliar folks with whom they have no history or shared experiences. No matter, for a brief time they will become extended family sharing a nurturing, hot meal, and that is enough.
It has been a tough year for some of us, and still tougher for others; difficult years mounting, seemingly endlessly. We have learned to tighten our belts and make do with less than we are accustomed to. Yet, we are basically an optimistic and hopeful lot looking to a New Year with renewed hope; it is in our DNA. But will things get better?
This year we hear that department stores are doing better in their build-up to Christmas shopping. Thousand are employed temporarily for the holidays, and so for them there will be Christmas. Cash registers will be ringing throughout the country. We need to feel that some things are a constant in our lives, like Thanksgiving dinner and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Going on its 84th year, the parade continues to delight young and old with its colorful floats carrying celebrities and entertainers of all varieties, accompanied by huge, colorful balloons floating high over the city in the form of cartoon characters, bringing smiles and joy to a million plus standing on the streets below and even more watching on television; Macy's gift to the nation.
And then it is Black Friday and the frenzied shopping begins, leading up to Christmas. May these traditions never end.
Sometime during the holidays, we will turn to an old comforting favorite on TV and once again we will find a shared meaning of the holidays when we watch, for the umpteenth time, It's A Wonderful Life, that classic film from 1947 starring Jimmy Stewart as a savings and loans operator who feels his life has had little meaning and considers suicide. He is given a second chance when his guardian angel Clarence comes to earth and shows George Bailey how he has positively affected his family, friends and community in Bedford Falls, and kept them from a life of poverty and debauchery. And what their lives would be like if he had not been born. Of course, life without George is a grim picture, and he finally comes to understand that his life has been indeed wonderful, in the service of others. No current-day banksters could come even close to our mythical George Bailey - a hero for the ages who gives us comfort at least once a year.
This year, in addition to the turkey and the parade and my favorite movie, I will also be thinking about the Democratic Lame Ducks of the 111th Congress, and hoping that they do not act like dead ducks in these last weeks of their (current) tenure in DC. After all, the Dems still control Congress and the agenda and have much important legislation to pass. Showing backbone now will at least give us some glimmer of hope that they can achieve victory in 2012. Pass legislation that will help American families and working people that the right wing will surely oppose and force the conservatives to work even harder to thwart the middle class - a winning strategy for a Dems victory next time.
Here, then, is my holiday wish list - I think George Bailey would approve:
1- Extend unemployment benefits ready to expire on November 30th for 800,000 unemployed Americans and extending benefits for 2 million to lose their benefits by December 30th. On Thursday, this bill's extension was defeated in the House, but will come up again in December with compromises.
2- Prevent cuts in doctors' Medicare payment fees on December 1st by 23%. To make such draconian cuts will leave the Medicare program in a state of collapse and doctors will walk away from treating their older, needy patients. This beast cannot be starved. The formula of payments to doctors must be changed once and for all.
3- Pass the 9/11 James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act. Our 9/11 families deserve nothing less.
4- Pass the Disclose Act. The American people deserve to know who these now-unidentified contributors to partisan attacks are, how much they're contributing and which candidates or Congressmembers they are attacking.
5- Pass the Fair Elections Now Act. Going to public funding for campaigns and thereby leveling the playing field for all candidates for Congress.
6- Pass the Employees Free Choice Act, strengthening unions and helping them grow.
7- Oppose the extension of our involvement in Afghanistan into 2014. We are now moving perilously close to that date and beyond, with this new timetable being discussed in Lisbon over this past weekend. So what happened to drawing down by July 2011?
8- End the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and save the country $700- $750 billion dollars, and
let the conservatives convince America why they need to give away more of our dollars to the rich and add to the deficit.
Of course more needs to be done, but several of the items on this list are doable NOW, so long as there are no more cave-ins or capitulations, Dems!
I'd also like to extend a special thank you and holiday greeting to my friend Jon Stone, who makes all of my posts possible with his invaluable insights and talent.
Happy Thanksgiving every one!