Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s been a very busy 10 days or so ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday — not so much with TV but with cases (not much has really gone on in Lawpsyc news).  There’s one big new story in which a woman went missing after appearing on an episode of The People’s Court (the case was against her ex).  We don’t know much about that one yet, but stay tuned.

The other two missing persons stories that made big news in the past few weeks — “Baby Lisa” in Kansas City (whose parents apparently haven’t been interested enough in finding the now 1-year-old infant to cooperate fully with law enforcement) and the missing little boy in Washington (whose mother apparently lied about running out of gas and leaving him behind in the car while she walked to a gas station) — have kind of subsided because not much new has happened in either case.  Stay tuned for developments in these cases, too — I remember talking a lot about Caylee Anthony on the air when she first went missing in the summer of 2008, then the story subsided, then about six months later her remains were found, and the rest is Lawpsyc history.  I think that the “Baby Lisa” case is headed in that direction, and maybe the Washington case as well.

Then the Penn. State child sexual abuse scandal seems to just get more disgusting by the day (and also to be spawning some “copycat” complaints against other public figures — e.g. another NCAA coach and a Congressman — that may or may not have comparable validity).  The accused former Penn. State assistant coach gave an interview in which he was asked whether he’s sexually attracted to little kids, and the lengthy pause between the end of the question and the beginning of the convoluted answer spoke volumes to me.  Former judge and FBI Director Louis Freeh has been appointed to investigate the whole sordid thing, and I predict he’s going to find some serious administrative corruption to go along with the alleged crimes.  Specifically, I suspect that the ousted head coach both intimidated and rewarded the graduate student who reported witnessing the accused assistant coach committing a sex crime in a university locker room years ago.  As far as we know, that witness didn’t report the incident to any other authority after reporting it to the head coach, and then he just so happened to be given a chance to join the coaching staff full-time after his tenure as a student was over.  Ok, maybe he was just an excellent student and the best new hire that the head coach could’ve found anywhere, or maybe there was a “quid pro quo.”  Stay tuned.

On a much-different topic, but one about which I’ve also previously written, presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently suggested that the Veterans Affairs health care system be privatized.  I completed a year-long internship in a VA hospital, and whether you agree with him on anything else or not, Romney is absolutely right about this — both taxpayers and (most importantly) veterans with service-connected health problems would be far better off if we got the government out of the health care business and simply gave these veterans zero-deductible, “Cadillac” private health insurance so they could get treatment from the providers and facilities of their choosing.

And with that, as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ll wrap up by re-posting (below) a piece that I wrote for Thanksgiving 2008 that people seemed to really like, thanking you for reading my columns and watching my TV appearances again this year, and wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving!

Originally posted 11/27/2008:

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, not because of the food, and not because of the football, but because it’s all about gratitude — no presents, no cards, not really even any decorations (not that I’m against any of that), just gratitude.  The food that we share on Thanksgiving has its traditional roots in a celebration of gratitude for the survival of our nation’s founding community, and as we enjoy it this year, I hope it’s accompanied by gratitude for that and for all that’s been achieved here since then.  As you may know, I’m a big proponent of gratitude.  While it’s easy to develop an attitude of entitlement here in the U.S.A., I believe that an attitude of gratitude serves people much better.  A lot of complaining goes on here, some of it justified, much of it unjustified, and most of it not very constructive (i.e. not doing much to improve the country or the lives of the complainants). 

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world in my short lifetime (something like 35 countries on six continents so far), and those experiences have really put our nation’s blessings in perspective.  At any given moment, most of us who live here go about our daily activities without giving a thought to the possibility of the country being attacked.  That’s because hundreds of thousands of people — all volunteers, some here, the rest spread throughout the world in a wide variety of inhospitable conditions — spend all day, every day, thinking about it.  I’ve been places where that kind of national security hasn’t existed in any living citizen’s lifetime.  Almost every one of us who lives here can pick up a telephone at any moment, press three little buttons, and expect that, within minutes, trained professionals will arrive on the scene to protect us and our property from crime, health crises, natural disasters — pretty much any emergency situation that could arise.  I’ve been places where that kind of societal concern for individuals is a completely foreign concept.  Virtually all of us can turn a handle and watch drinkably-clean water come pouring forth, flip a switch and watch darkness become light, open a door and pull out a cold drink or well-preserved food, make our environments warmer or cooler with a simple touch, and have instant access to more entertainment and information than we could possibly take in at the touch of a button, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  I’ve been places where that kind of reliable convenience would seem like something out of a futuristic television show (if there were televisions in virtually every home like there are here).  The vast majority of us have the choice of getting into our own vehicles or cheap, clean public transportation and traveling just minutes to huge indoor markets, filled with thousands of foods from all over the world (usually multiple kinds of each) and virtually everything else we need for daily living.  I’ve been places where the “supermarkets” were smaller than what we call “convenience stores,” where people’s “floors” were dirt, where electricity may or may not have been available (certainly not reliably), and traveling even a few miles was a dangerous ordeal. 

And believe it or not, most of the people in those places have seemed happy.  Apparently, they’ve had attitudes of gratitude — they weren’t comparing what they had to what anyone else had, and if they had the basic necessities of life, they felt blessed.  In America, especially lately, we hear a lot about people’s wages not being high enough, health care not being cheap enough, credit not being loose enough, gas prices not being low enough, the stock market not recovering fast enough, the war on terror not ending soon enough, and on and on and on.  Of course we have some people in extreme need here, but in general, overall, on-balance, even America’s truly-needy (which our loudest complainers usually are not) are relatively advantaged by global comparison.  On top of that, each and every one of us has the right to complain as much and as indignantly as we like about the way things are here with zero fear of being penalized by the government for the views we express.  We also get to be thankful to whomever or whatever we believe in, or to believe in nothing, with zero fear of being penalized for the beliefs that we hold. 

This week, I took a poll of the students in the college course that I’m teaching, and the results that I got were encouraging.  I asked them what they were thankful for this Thanksgiving, and the most popular response so far has been a person or persons, not things or even opportunities, with health being the second-most-popular response.  These students seem to get it — they’re blessed, and so am I, and so are you — so I hope we all project an attitude of gratitude as we celebrate my favorite holiday today.  Happy Thanksgiving! 

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