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THE JAUNDICED EYE : Thanksgetting: The New National Holiday

November 26, 1995|Bruce McCall | Bruce McCall is a regular contributor to the New Yorker

NEW YORK — House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) inaugurated the first Thanksgetting Day in American history last Thursday, inviting 200 relatives, staffers, lobbyists, defense contractors, snake handlers and speakers-in-tongues to a $5,000-a-plate "return to sanity" Thanksgetting Day dinner, symbolically held in the executive dining room of MegaCorp Inc., the tobacco, firearm and savings-and-loan conglomerate.

In his role as host, toastmaster, keynote speaker, honoree and prayer leader, Gingrich used the event as the launch platform for his upcoming congressional bill designed to replace America's traditional Thanksgiving holiday with Thanksgetting Day.

"Thanksgiving," the Speaker insisted, "is in the true liberal spirit of an out-of-control giveaway program of socialistic freeloading that started in the 1600s with free meals for Indians, without a means test. Were they even hungry? Nobody knew--it was just come one, come all. Why, researchers at the Vengeance Institute [a conservative think tank] reckon that jobless Indians were fed so many free turkey dinners in Thanksgiving celebrations at the Massachusetts Colony alone between 1621 and 1700 that they lost the will to work and turned to violence, in the age-old pattern.

"But what can you expect from a holiday hatched in the liberal-infested Northeast?" Gingrich asked, rhetorically. "For too long now, an elite minority of Establishment mandarins has dictated what the whole country must eat on the fourth Thursday of November. Why chow down on a bird named after a foreign country that isn't even Christian?

"Thanksgetting Day changes all that. Now, each region will be free to decide on its own what meal is served. That's why today we sit down to a dinner of good old Georgia fried peaches washed down with regional moonshine."

Thanksgetting Day, Gingrich promised, would forever end the practice of communistic share-and-share-alike, with everybody at the table passively receiving the same meal as everybody else, regardless of merit. "To give is socialist," he pointed out, "the Big Brother technique. But to get is American, as in 'go-getter.' So from now on, at the Thanksgetting dinner table, as in life, people will get what they fight for, depending on their energy and grit."

Gingrich's remarks at this point were briefly interrupted while he elbowed aside a niece and tripped an elderly lady to get first licks on a plate of yams.

Dismissing as "partisan crybaby grandstanding" the allegations that fine print in his Thanksgetting bill favors special interests and punishes others, the Speaker defended a three-minute Thanksgetting dinner head start by defense contractors and a three-minute late-start penalty for gays. "It takes a lot of energy to develop weapons, and no energy to decorate," he claimed, "so, of course, you feed the neediest first. I'd have thought the liberals would insist on it."

The Gingrich Thanksgetting bill calls for all turkeys in America to be shot as pests, a provision praised by the National Rifle Assn., as "about 300 years overdue;" for a minute of prayer before every course, and for legalized gambling on NFL and college football games played that day.

Gingrich ridiculed charges that this would poison the holiday's family spirit, pitting relative against relative, and even husbands against wives, in a betting frenzy. "What wives?" he demanded. "The little lady will be in the kitchen, cleaning up!"

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