Dear Valentine,

The Substance of President Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation (“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me ‘to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed…’”) fails to appear in yours.  But, hey, it isn’t every Hobbit on High who can honestly claim to be substance-free.  You deem the Founders’ Touchstone untouchable, easily less pronounceable than supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Alas, your reluctance to declare the Substance of Thanksgiving calls to mind the pot calling the kettle black.  You cluck: “The newspapers have squeezed out even more substance to make room for advertising…”  And what, pray tell, was YOUR blog doing?  “…the Wesleyan Fund is conducting a one-day campaign to support our alma mater through contributions.  Your gift through the Fund, no matter how small, helps the university with its current needs, including financial aid.”

You oblige the students to gift the Fund, as “…we (should) turn our attention away from buying stuff we may not need…”  “We”?   Where’s YOUR kick-off gift?  You say my request is unusual?  It is, but no more unusual than yours.  Before your formative era (the Sixties and Seventies) hit the fan, Old Wes obliged the students to work to the max in a wholly monastic enclave set in a rundown, backwater town that barely forbore the gown.  We house-boys on High (a dozen lettered Greeks) competed scholastically, high-grade competition paying off in high-grade earnings AFTER graduation, when Old Grads would plow back bumper-year earnings into improving Alma Mater’s unlittered – repeat: unlittered – estate.  Your putting the harvest season ahead of the growing season is something new in the art of cultivation.

Regarding what you call “the stuff we may not need” – the hot and cold confections, the soundtracks, whatever, – one soundtrack this verbally guarded schoolyard’s children do NOT need is a Chief Diversity Officer, a schoolyard scold employed by the schoolyard bully.  You urge the students to cheer the new scold’s arrival.  I, for one, shall forgive them if they don’t, for they had no say in the purchase they’ll be paying for.  It wouldn’t cost you a penny to call it “social justice,” and if you get caught with your hand in their pocket, like Barry the Fleecer and Document-shredder, you probably will.

You wish to move on?  Dear Valentine, your wish is my command.

Ere you’d beaten the substantive stuffing out of the holy day of Thanksgiving, last September the very threshold of Olin was the recipient of a basting, courtesy of hollerfest MASH.  That unlicensed assault-weapon’s evident mission: to drive every thought of grave skullduggery out of circulation one whole week after classes began.  Argus arts editor Gwendolyn Rosen conveys the scene: “I began my Mash experience in SciLi, begrudgingly trying to do some of my homework before all of the fun started.  My concentration broke once I saw from the Fishbowl that President Michael Roth was rocking out with Smokin’ Lillies in front of Olin.  If the president is enjoying the sunshine, there is no better sign that you should abandon your reading to join the music.”  No better sign, that sign you stuck on the lawn in front of Olin.

And you would make your MASH a yearly affair.  Must make a note of that: an annual mosh top-billing Mike the Rock, the lyricist whose compositions are stuck in the key of I (“I recently reviewed…”  “I read…”  “I met…” “I viewed…”  “I spoke…”  “And then I wrote…”).  The student body’s mental circuits need another circuit-breaker as badly as you need another I-key.

And speaking of beating and basting, you have not yet begun to fight.  Soon you’ll be deleting from its lovely setting Art History’s bibliotheque.  It had too much piquant charm to survive your envy-driven pique.  Your wrecking ball would have trashed Shanklin, had the Market’s crash not erased the funds to replace it with a fitting companion to Exley, the campus’s ugliest structure till Patricelli Pavilion hove into view and staved off a later bid for that honor by Bennet Hall.

The students call the Pavilion “the gas station” – an inspired call.  I call it President Douglas J. “Bigfoot” Bennet’s trademark tread-mark stomped on the chiseled face of Brownstone Row.  Doug’s idolatrous Board of Philistines (“What do WE know?”), in panic mode – a prankster had hidden their rubber stamp – until they found it, gave their ritual blessing to record fundraiser Bennet’s project, into the bargain sacrificing (yea, burning up) Art History’s faculty (“What do THEY know?”), aghast at Bigfoot’s foot on the gas.

And now it’s deconstructionist Roth’s turn.  Will he complete Old Wes’s effacement within his tenure’s remaining six years?  (“And in the seventh year Roth rested.”)  Michael, first make certain Thanksgiving had been completely effaced.  Yes, you’d managed to park that holy day’s Inspiration in the trash (and that’s no ordinary, fixable parking ticket), but more could be done.

Begin with a killer sound bite.  The Mayflower could be rechristened La fleur du mal (don’t mention it), but even you would rue the day – the day your fellow apaches pour over the left bank onto La rue de la paix in war paint.  You’d greet them, ejaculating “Frere Jacques, La fleur du mal est formiDABle!”  They’d heave a despairing sigh: “Another transatlantic expatriot, carried away by the clime, succumbs to Seine-stroke.”

Michael, you need to get out of the Seine and give nativism a chance.  Do me the favor of showing that blooming import the compost heap, and I’ll reciprocate: I’ll feed your scrawny Thanksgiving turkey’s lede a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious sound bite.  Hark! the summary wintry remark of a wretchedly tribal apache, the first to have sighted the Pilgrims disembarking: “Palefaces.  There goes the neighborhood.”

Benjamin is a member of the class of 1957.

  • Namesake

    “Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?”
    ― John Wesley

    “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
    ― John Wesley

    • Namesake

      “Thanksgiving is inseparable from true prayer; it is almost essentially connected with it. One who always prays is ever giving praise, whether in ease or pain, both for prosperity and for the greatest adversity. He blesses God for all things, looks on them as coming from Him, and receives them for His sake- not choosing nor refusing, liking or disliking,anything, but only as it is agreeable or disagreeable to His perfect will.”
      ― John Wesley