Thanksgiving in Plymouth and Jutland

Pilgrim:  How.
Squanto:  How? Isn't it obvious? As the fish decays, it releases nitrogen. In the soil, nitrogen-fixing bacteria convert this nitrogen into nitrates, a form that corn plants can metabolize. These nitrates are largely responsible for healthy leaf and stem growth. 

Holiday joy and peace, Camper.

You wouldn’t know it from his cheery disposition, but Your Uncle Jerry comes from a long line of stern, sober, devout, and stoic people. His ancestors on one side were dark Lutherans, and on the other side were merciless unhappy Puritans. As a child, Young Uncle Jerry learned that truth and righteousness were unacquainted with the joys of this world, and that purity of spirit is at odds with bodily pleasure. This kind of theology, Camper, is why good people go wrong.

Viewing the movie Babette’s Feast, which he does as a personal discipline every year during the winter holidays, Your Uncle Jerry feels as if he’s joining his ancestors for dinner. And like any black sheep returning home, he feels comfortable yet alienated. He even gets a little angry as he watches his ancestors not enjoying, not giving thanks for the exquisite meal that Babette has prepared just for them. He suffers through their long ungrateful silences, their refusal to acknowledge the bliss and blessing there on the table. Uncle Jerry can’t wait for his favorite movie to be over. He clamps his teeth over his own knuckles until the old general finally speaks.

The general, a secular, world-weary man trapped like Uncle Jerry at a winter meal in Jutland with people frozen in their own theological misery, finds himself amazed at what Babette has created. He is tasting with his entire body, rolling his eyes, puffing out his cheeks, examining each forkful and each glass of wine as if he cannot believe that anything so obviously a gift from heaven could exist in the same world with such dour, sour human beings. The general has dined in the most opulent restaurants in Europe, but only once has he tasted such a palpable mercy as Babette has laid before them tonight. That was many years and many wars ago, in Paris, and little does he know that Babette was the chef at that meal, too. At last, almost woozy with joy, the old general rises to offer a toast.

Mercy and truth are met together. Righteousness and bliss shall kiss each other. We in our weakness and short-sightedness believe that we must make choices in this life. We tremble at the risks of choosing—what to take, what to leave behind?

But no. What we choose is of no importance. Once in a great while, there comes a moment to open our eyes, and we realize that mercy is infinite. Mercy imposes no conditions. We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude. And lo, everything we have chosen has been granted to us. And everything we have not chosen—this has also been granted.

For mercy and truth are met together. Righteousness and bliss shall kiss each other.

You don't hear this stuff in Sunday School, Camper. Try to remember it. Peace and joy.

United We Stand

Or will you try and tell me that you’ve been too long at school?
That knowledge is not needed, that power does not rule?
—Gordon Lightfoot
lame old protest song.

Joy and peace.

Your Uncle Jerry is thinking about getting into politics. What this country needs is a few more citizens with the guts to speak truth to power, thinkers who will not shrink from making the unpopular argument. We need public intellectuals who will bravely stand in the face of public opinion and repeat what they’ve been hearing all day on CNN. Uncle Jerry has decided to become a pundit.

The recall election in the state of Wisconsin makes the need clear. Some of Uncle Jerry’s more soft-headed friends who happen actually to live in Wisconsin thought this election was about restoring accountability to executive power and about the runaway influence of Big Money in state politics. But the truth is there to see—in the media: this election was clearly a referendum on the threat to the American Way of Life posed by powerful labor unions that disappeared sometime in the 1970s.

Labor unions, as any news anchor with a smart board and a $5000 suit could tell you, are the bane of democracy. They are roving bands of firefighters, teachers, secretaries, and autoworkers, controlled from the shadows by cigar-chomping socialists. Union members aren’t real Americans; they’re unwashed shirkers, whose collars aren’t white, who have no gratitude for our democracy or for the millionaires who own it fair and square. They despise those who keep democracy safe through gerrymandering and through dismantling campaign finance regulations.

As a new member of the punditocracy, Your Uncle Jerry will make it a priority to remind American couch potatoes that this country wasn’t built by union workers, and it isn’t kept safe every day by police, firefighters, safety inspectors, teachers, and other blood-sucking unionists.

America was built by the blood, sweat, and tears of the fabulous. You think being born into wealth is easy? Well, it isn’t. It takes real imagination to invent things like tax loopholes for capital gains; it takes chutzpah, dedication, and vast networks of powerful friends to hoist bags and bags of money and to hide them in off-shore bank accounts. You think bootstrapping from the working class is hard? You should try it when the only straps available are the tassels on your Gucci loafers.

The voters in Wisconsin have made it clear, as all the pundits agree. Workers go too far when they band together demanding “economic justice.” As we stand here in the dawn of the Age of Romney, we must not be weighed down by demands from the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. We owe them nothing. We must look up—way up—to our wealthiest one percent. Look at how they protect each other, how they congratulate each other, how they compete good-naturedly to write the biggest check to their personal senators. Look at them linked arm in arm. There we see, Camper, exactly what the Founders meant by “a more perfect union.”

Peace and joy.

In chapter 19, Molly and Rhinehart unite around the need to pull a scam.