Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

A Thanksgiving to remember for the ages

I cherish the memories of many Thanksgiving holidays over the years. I will do so again this year. Our sons, our daughter-in-law and our granddaughter will join us for dinner. We will laugh and enjoy fellowship that only families can enjoy.

However, the most unique Thanksgiving of my life will be in the back of my mind. It occurred 30 years ago today. I was traveling in a faraway land, away from my wife and my sons. As I look back on it, I realize more clearly than ever the symbolism that Thanksgiving had in that time, in that place.

I was traveling through Southeast Asia with a group of editorial writers and editors. We traveled there to examine the issues of the day and to take a firsthand look at the ravages that war had brought to that region. We started our tour in Thailand. Then we flew to Vietnam, which to many of the Vietnam War veterans among our group filled us with another sort of emotion.

Then we flew to Cambodia, which in 1989 was a shattered hulk of a country. The Vietnamese occupiers who invaded the country in 1978 had just vacated. They left behind a nation in ruins brought to it by the horrifying Khmer Rouge regime led by Pol Pot.

We departed Cambodia by bus caravan back to Saigon. It would take us all day to get from Phnom Penh to the city now known officially as Ho Chi Minh City; except that the civilians still call it Saigon.

After a harrowing trip that included crossing the Mekong River on a rickety raft that served as a “ferry,” we arrived in Saigon. We checked in to the Majestic Hotel. Then we went to dinner as a group, tired but ready to enjoy some good chow and each other’s company.

Our Vietnamese hosts knew that it was Thanksgiving Day, a uniquely American holiday. They went out of their way to make us feel “at home.” They served us a wonderful meal in the dining room of roast duck, mashed potatoes, peas and apple pie.

Was it the most scrumptious meal I’ve ever eaten? Not even close. One of my friends among the journalists gathered there called the main course “road kill duck.” But, our hosts’ hearts were clearly geared toward showing us some supreme hospitality. They succeeded far beyond measure.

As I look back on that Thanksgiving dinner three decades later, I realize now how thankful I was at the time — and I am today — at the bounty we enjoy in this country. Furthermore, as I recall the lingering misery we encountered in Cambodia, I am reminded of just how grateful we must remain in this country, where we hope we never experience what those brave and glorious people had to endure.

That dinner gave me a special understanding of what this holiday means to all of us. May we never take what we have for granted.

A Thanksgiving plea to POTUS

I want to direct this next blog post to the president of the United States. He likely won’t see it, given that he has several million Twitter followers. But … here’s hoping for the best.

Mr. President, I want to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. Really, I do wish it for you and your family. But please, sir, I have a request: Do not do anything stupid, foolish, outrageous, insulting, moronic, idiotic or distasteful on this day … at least! It’s too much to ask that you refrain from such idiocy beyond this uniquely American holiday.

Enjoy your time at Mar-a-Lago. Surround yourself with friends. Give thanks for all that you have. I’m sure you’ve got some nice digs there.

Give thanks if you want to Vladimir Putin for all he sought to do to help you win the 2016 election. Give thanks also to your new BFF, Kim Jong Un, the guy with whom said you are in love. You are entitled to give thanks to Saudi prince Mohammad bin Salman (I will not refer to him as “MBS”) for buying all those jet fighters — even though he ordered the murder of that journalist in Istanbul.

Just don’t make any goofy policy pronouncements today via Twitter, Mr. President. I want to enjoy the day here in North Texas with my family and I do not want to get my blood boiling over some stupid remark from your Twitter account.

Tomorrow’s another day. I am sure you will provide millions of us with grist to either condemn or praise. Count me as one who’s likely to be in the former category.

Until then, sir … again, happy Thanksgiving.

This is a seriously profound Thanksgiving story

One of these days — probably in the not-too-distant future — a little 1-year-old boy is going to become aware of a young man who saved his life. He will give heartfelt thanks to the effort of that young man and several other strangers who performed heroic deeds on Thanksgiving Eve, 2018.

Byron Campbell, 21 years of age, noticed smoke coming from an east Dallas apartment complex on Wednesday. (That’s him in the picture.) He rushed the building. He and several other individuals then began knocking on doors, informing residents of the fire, urging them to get out. First-floor residents dragged mattresses out so those on the upper floors could jump onto them while escaping the inferno.

A young woman was trapped on the third floor of the apartment building. She was holding her infant son. Byron stood on the ground urging her to let the baby go. He would catch him. The mom did it. The baby dropped and Byron caught him. He was safe.

Mom and Dad were able to escape the burning building. Indeed, everyone inside the structure escaped unharmed. The building was demolished. A Dallas firefighter suffered minor injuries.

This is the kind of story that makes one proud of humanity.

A group of young men risked their lives to save others. One of them had the presence of mind to steel himself for a harrowing escape orchestrated by a panicked woman who thought only of saving her helpless child. The woman placed her faith in the arms — and the heart — of a complete stranger.

I cannot possibly know how this young family will be thinking and feeling on this day we give thanks. I’ll start with the obvious: They will give thanks for the young man who saved their little boy’s life.

Soon, so will the little boy.

Wow!

Giving thanks on this special day … and always

My family members know I love all of them beyond measure. They know I am grateful for the love they give me in return.

I am grateful and thankful for the friends I have acquired over many decades of living. I believe they know of — and appreciate — my love for them, too.

Now the rest of you know what they know and understand the gratitude I am expressing to them today and every day.

I feel moved to express my thankfulness and gratitude for my country. And for the system of government under which we Americans live.

You see, I am grateful in the extreme that my government allows me to write this blog. I put these musings out there multiple times each day. I use it to vent my frustration with the government, and with many of the people who operate the government. These people are responsible for making the laws under which we live and for administering them in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.

The framers of the Constitution established the Bill of Rights, which are contained in the first 10 amendments to that document. The First Amendment lays out freedom to worship, freedom of the press and freedom to seek redress of grievances. This blog, thus, is protected by at least two of those First Amendment clauses.

My retirement status has given me the freedom to speak only for myself. I do not shy away from that. I’ll keep pounding away for as long as I am able to maintain a cogent thought in my noggin and string sentences together that make a semblance of sense.

Some people in power who happen to read what I write won’t like what they read. That’s too bad — for them!

For me? I will just keep giving thanks for the opportunity to speak my mind.

Sign of the times: security concerns at holiday events

I cannot possibly watch every cable and broadcast news channel at once, but I am pretty certain they are saying essentially the same thing about the big Thanksgiving Day parades in some of the nation’s major cities.

Security is tighter than ever at them all.

This is a sign of the times. This post-9/11 world of ours has alerted us to the dangers posed by international and domestic terrorism.

They have presented themselves in horrifying ways, with goons running over spectators with motor vehicles. They detonated explosives. There have been stabbings and shootings.

New York City and Philadelphia are staging big parades today. The rest of us out here in Flyover Country will watch on TV — and many of us will hold our breath that we can get through this happy day and give thanks that tragedy doesn’t strike.

Happy Trails, Part 56

My full-time retirement is not yet a year old, but we’re building a bank of memories already about this new life we’ve begun.

Today, though, brings to mind a memory I left behind when my 37-year career in print journalism came to an end.

It occurred on Thanksgiving Day, 1989. I was far from home. I was traveling through Southeast Asia with about 20 other editorial page writers and editors. I have written about it before. Here is the blog item I posted in 2014 about that remarkable day:

A Thanksgiving to remember … in Vietnam

The post details the traveling we endured on that day. It was a bit harrowing. It produced none-too-pleasant “fantasies” about what might happen to us as we proceeded from Cambodia to Vietnam on that uniquely American holiday.

That particular journey was one of the more remarkable events in a career I left behind more than five years ago.

I built many wonderful relationships during more than three decades as a journalist. Indeed, the journey we took in 1989 through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam resulted in a friendship I forged with one fellow that I cherish to this day. Indeed, our wives have become dear friends, too. We watched each other’s children grow into adulthood.

As much as I miss those days and the fascinating sights I was able to see while pursuing the craft I enjoyed for so many years, I continue to look forward to more adventures in an entirely different context.

I give thanks for what I’ve been allowed to do for my professional life. I also give thanks for the relatively good health I enjoy that I trust will enable me to pursue what lies ahead.

Life is good, ladies and gents.

Thanksgiving brings back a special memory

hotel majestic

Most of my Thanksgiving celebrations have been of a fairly standard variety.

Turkey and all the sides. Fellowship with family. Lots of laughs. Sometimes even some pro football watching on TV.

But I’ve got a special Thanksgiving memory I’d like to share here.

It occurred in 1989. Twenty-six years ago I had the honor of attending — along with about 20 other journalists from all over the country — a three-week journey through Southeast Asia. Our trip took us — in order — Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and back to Vietnam. Our delegation represented the National Conference of Editorial Writers, which has been renamed and reorganized into the Association of Opinion Journalists.

It was a marvelous experience at many levels. Just going so far from home in itself was a treat. For several of us on that trip, it gave us a chance to return to Vietnam, where we had served during that terrible war and to see a country no longer shrouded by that conflict.

But along the way, we ventured to Cambodia. In 1989, the country was just beginning to recover from decades of war. Phnom Penh, the capital city, was in shambles. Vietnamese forces had just evacuated the country after liberating Cambodia from the heinous rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. The city’s infrastructure was decimated.

We spent several days in Cambodia, laying eyes on a notorious killing field and seeing up close a former prison where the Khmer Rouge tortured and killed their countrymen.

But then the Cambodia portion of the trip ended. It happened to be Thanksgiving Day when we boarded our vans and headed east, back to Ho Chi Minh City (which the locals still refer to as Saigon).

We traveled all day along a terrible road. We crossed the rapidly flowing Mekong River aboard a “ferry” that in reality was little more than a glorified raft.

After a grueling day of travel back to Saigon, we settled into our hotel, the Majestic. Then we were informed by the hotel staff that they had prepared a special meal for us.

They wanted to make us feel a bit more “at home” by serving us a Thanksgiving-style meal in the hotel’s main dining room.

We all sat down to dinner that evening and enjoyed a serving of what one of my dear friends refers to this day as “road kill duck”; we also enjoyed some fresh peas and mashed potatoes.

The meal was just OK.

What made it so very special, though, was the hospitality displayed by our Vietnamese hosts, who were delighted to treat us to a meal that enabled their American visitors commemorate a uniquely American holiday.

A day that began with some trepidation as we looked forward to a long, tiring and potentially harrowing trip back from a nation still bleeding from the wounds of war ended with warmth and good wishes — in a place so far from home.

 

Entering the ‘no politics zone,’ more or less

politics_free_zone_classic_white_coffee_mug-r06ea56903c024c82a802c8b987c7d54d_x7jg5_8byvr_324

Bill O’Reilly is fond of telling viewers to his talk show on Fox News that they’re entering the “no spin zone.”

Well, of course he’s wrong. He spins the news to his point of view every single night.

That’s his right to do so.

Accordingly, High Plains Blogger is entering — if only for the holiday season — what I’ll call a “no politics zone.” I’ll be truthful, though, on this point: I might not be totally faithful to that pledge.

My plan is to stay away from the presidential campaign at least through Christmas. I will give it my best possible shot to stay away from it through New Year’s Day. I cannot guarantee success.

Where might I fall short on my no politics pledge? A candidate running for the highest office in the land just might say something so outrageous, so beyond the pale, so ridiculous that I might be compelled to comment.

I’ll resist that temptation with every fiber of my being. I can promise that.

However, this bears repeating because some of my social media contacts didn’t get it the first time I announced this hiatus from politics: I will continue to write snarky comments on my Twitter account, which then will be fed automatically to my Facebook account.

It’s High Plains Blogger that’s taking the break. Got it, y’all?

The blog will continue to provide commentary on issues of the day. There is quite a lot going on out there that has little — if anything — to do with raw politics. My intent is to keep my eyes and ears open.

I am just tired of the sniping, lying, demagoguery, fear-mongering, name-calling, reputation-impugning, mud-slinging and whatever other negative term you want to hang on the nature of this campaign.

I do not expect any of it to cease during the holiday season. I’m just planning at this moment to tune most of it out while I celebrate (a) Thanksgiving and (b) Christmas with my family.

The way I look at it now, a rest from most of that bad political behavior I going to allow me to rest up for when the real campaign gets going after the first of the year.

I’ll need some good karma, though, to help me resist the temptation to weigh in.

I’m asking for it here. My true intention really is to maintain a no politics zone.

Meantime, let’s all enjoy the season that’s upon us.

 

 

 

Time to suspend politics

political-debate

The business card I have been handing out for some time now talks about High Plains Blogger’s intent, which is to comment on “politics, current events and life experience.”

Well, dear reader, I’ve made a command decision regarding this blog.

I am suspending the “politics” part of this blog’s mission effective on Thanksgiving Day. My intention is to stay out of the political dialogue through Christmas. Heck, I might be inclined to wait until New Year’s Day before re-entering the fray.

Why the change?

I am weary of the anger and the nonsense that’s coming out of the mouths of all the presidential candidates … in both major political parties. What’s more — and this is even more to the point — I am weary of the back-and-forth that has ensued, not just among the candidates but also among their legions of supporters and opponents.

I’ve at times entered the fray with my own commentary, only to be sniped at by those who disagree with me. I don’t mind the disagreement. I’ve merely had it up to here with the anger that such commentary — not just from me — has engendered in partisans on both side of the aisle.

So, High Plains Blogger is going to take a breather from all of that.

Will this blog comment on current events as they occur? Certainly. It will not, though, engage in the political discourse that emanates from those events. And by all means the blog will comment on life experience, both personal and of things the author — that would be me — observes on his journey.

Rest assured on this point: I am not giving up totally on politics cold turkey. I will continue to comment on politics through my Twitter and Facebook feeds.

I do not intend to use this blog as a forum to state my own political bias. The way I figure it, Twitter only gives me 140 characters to make a statement. That’s efficient and doesn’t require too much emotional energy on my part; plus, my tweets are posted automatically to my Facebook feed, so — pow! just like that — I’m able to perform a two-fer.

But I’m also thinking of scaling back significantly the political commentary on those two social media outlets. Nor am I going to argue any point.

So, those of you who spend a lot of time engaging others in political debate and name-calling on social media are welcome to knock yourselves out; I will not join you in that exercise in futility.

Here’s my final thought on all of this.

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for all that we have. I am grateful beyond measure for the many blessings in my life. Christmas? Well, that is the time we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. What more can I say about that?

In keeping with the Christmas spirit, I hereby refuse to be dragged into the emotional gutter by politicians whose mission is to distort the other guys’ world view.

Thanksgiving is almost here. High Plains Blogger will stay in the game for a little while longer.

After that? I’ll see you on the other side.

 

Time for ‘kinder, gentler’ America

myrna

Myrna Raffkind writes frequently for the Amarillo Globe-News.

Her most recent opinion column appeared in today’s paper. I don’t subscribe to the paper; thus, I don’t see its online edition.

A Facebook friend posted Myrna’ column on his news feed. I picked it up and want to share it here.

If you have a moment, take some time read it. Myrna is one of the more thoughtful and, yes, “kinder and gentler” people I’ve ever known.

***

“An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind.”
— Mahatma Gandhi

After Dylann Roof’s mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June in South Carolina, the major focus of media attention was on the display/removal of the Confederate flag and the controversy surrounding this issue. Scarcely noticed was another incident following the shooting; this incident being the reaction of the victim’s families when they were allowed to address Roof at the bond hearing. Over and over, the victim’s family members sent the same response — “We forgive him.”

Forgiveness, the willingness to suppress the urge to retaliate, is a concept that seems foreign and almost nonexistent in today’s society.
An “I’ll get you back” mentality seems to permeate the minds and hearts of many Americans. Interestingly, it seems that those who have suffered the most from genocide and abuse are often willing to forgive.

I often think of the words of Elie Weisel, a Holocaust survivor, a man who watched all of his family tortured and killed, a man who speaks for six million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. Weisel’s words of wisdom were that we should “forgive but not forget.”

Forgive, but not forget. This is the concept echoed by the greatest leaders of our times — Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Pope Francis. All of these men are speaking on behalf of a minority group that has been abused and mistreated for generation after generation. And yet, they saw the power of forgiveness and the futility of resentment. Their own words send a powerful message.

MLK said, “We must develop the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.”

Gandhi’s words were, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
Speaking on resentment, Mandela said, “Resentment is like a glass of poison that a man drinks; then he sits down and waits for his enemy to die.”

And more recently, Pope Francis stunned the Catholic world and aroused controversy when he declared forgiveness for women who have had abortions.

In Simon Weisenthal’s classic book, “The Sunflower,” he examines the possibilities and limitations of forgiveness. Wiesenthal, while a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, was taken to visit a dying member of the SS. The German soldier asked Wiesenthal for forgiveness, and Wiesenthal’s response was one of silence. For the rest of his life, Wiesenthal wondered if he had taken the correct action. He asks 53 distinguished theologians, human rights activists, political leaders and writers what they would have done had they been in Wiesenthal’s situation. Their responses are thought-provoking as well as insightful.

Several said that forgiveness was possible, but only if it is accompanied by justice. Those who have committed atrocious acts must be punished so that we will never forget.

Other respondents, thinking of the many Germans who hid Jews in their homes or helped them escape, said that those who have a sense of collective guilt for the crimes that their leaders had engaged in could be forgiven, but never their leaders or those who perpetrated acts of genocide.

Another often-given response was that it made little difference what course of action Weisenthal took; ultimately the only one with the power to forgive was God.

Interestingly, none of the respondents advocated revenge. They note retaliation only hurts. Those consumed by anger lose their capacity for love.

It was not that long ago that President George Herbert Bush argued for a kinder, gentler America — an America that exemplified compassion and respect.

As I listen to the Republican presidential candidates, I wonder what has happened to Bush’s advice. It seems to me that the major tone of most politicians, regardless of political party, is one of anger and retribution. In the debates, there is so much bickering that little time is left for discussion of constructive and workable solutions to our nation’s pressing issues. Perhaps this is just “politics as usual,” but I cannot help but wonder if the time could have been spent more productively.

Would our country not be better off if we followed the example set by the Charleston families — of Weisel, Mandela, Gandhi and Pope Francis? If we opened our minds and hearts to forgiveness?

As Thanksgiving approaches, we reflect on our many blessings, some of which are the freedom to think for ourselves, to express ourselves and to recognize the greatness of our country rather than its shortcomings. Let us bear this in mind as we say our Thanksgiving prayers, and as we strive for a kinder, gentler America.