Thanksgiving 2020–Picking Through The Bones Of A Turkey Of A Holiday To Find Positives

As Thanksgivings go, Thanksgiving 2020 will undoubtedly go down in the books as a real turkey. How enjoyable is it to celebrate a holiday when we are told to stay home and stay away from everyone except immediate household members? The pandemic has cast a pall on the entire year, and now it is robbing us of traditional celebrations. But if we pick through the bones of this turkey of a holiday this year, positives can be identified. Yes, really!

Let’s Talk Turkey

Thanksgiving and turkey go together like peanut butter and jelly. It is hard to imagine one without the other. While we may not have Grandma, Uncle Horace, cousin Betty, and the rest of the clan around the Thanksgiving table, mercifully, we can still have a turkey gracing it.

About 40 million turkeys are eaten each Thanksgiving according to the National Turkey Federation. While TP has at times been scarce during 2020, there are no turkey shortages across the board. So, if you want to gobble down some turkey for Thanksgiving, you will not be disappointed.

That having been said, however, there is a challenge facing Americans. Consumers are facing a harder time finding smaller turkeys to serve for their big holiday meal. Kroger found that 43% of its shoppers planned to celebrate Thanksgiving with only those in their immediate household. Thus, there’s no need for a ginormous turkey to fill the special turkey platter. The pandemic has driven up the demand for smaller turkeys.

This shift in demand is good news for male turkeys who are also known as Toms. Most large turkeys (defined as more than 16 pounds) are male. Most small turkeys are female and are called hens. Preparing smaller turkeys is thus going to result in a hen party this Thanksgiving.

We Gather Together

The Centers for Disease Control, familiarly known as CDC, has recommended people not travel for Thanksgiving due to the pandemic. So gathering together with kith and kin who do not live in the local area is pumpkin pie in the sky for those who adhere to this advice. CDC is such a party pooper! Right now that acronym seems to stand for Cancelling Desired Celebration.

Despite the ban on in person gatherings, people can still gather together–just not in the traditional Thanksgiving way. Using technology, relatives and friends may share a meal albeit virtually. In the past? TV dinners. Now? Zoom dinners.

Gathering together is such an integral part of celebrating Thanksgiving that the hymn most associated with Thanksgiving is “We Gather Together.” But the back story of this hymn provides a better understanding of something else which Americans can be thankful for despite an ongoing pandemic.

The hymn, of Dutch origin, was written in 1597 and its words were set to the music of a well known folk tune. The song had nothing to do with a holiday. It celebrated the Dutch victory over the Spanish at the Battle of Turnhout. The Protestant Dutch were fighting a war of liberation against Spain’s Catholic king who forbade them to assemble for worship. The king basically told them, “Don’t Gather Together!” To stick it to the king, then, the victorious Dutch thus gleefully sang “We Gather Together.” Well at least they sang that idea in their native language.

Although the pandemic may have altered the look of church services with congregants wearing masks and socially distancing, Americans of faith can still be thankful this Thanksgiving. There is no government prohibition against assembling to worship as one sees fit. We can gather with those of like faith whenever we choose–Thanksgiving or any other day of the year.

Pilgrim’s Pride

After a turkey, the Pilgrims are the probably the most familiar thing about an American Thanksgiving. In fact, the holiday is based on what the Pilgrims did hundreds of years ago. Even though the pandemic has radically changed how the holiday will be celebrated this year, everyone can be thankful that a modern celebration looks nothing like the one the Pilgrims observed.

Sure the pandemic has caused an ever mounting and ghastly death toll in 2020. But the Pilgrims had it way worse. The 53 Pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving had survived the long journey on the Mayflower and the first winter in the new world. Disease and starvation struck down HALF (that’s 50% for those of you who are mathematically challenged) of the original 102 colonists. Thankfully COVID-19 is nowhere near decimating half of this country’s population.

If Americans have to scale back their celebrations, they will surely have an easier time than the Pilgrims did. Their celebration lasted for three days, and there were no paper plates, refrigerators, and microwaves back then. Sounds like lots of work for the Pilgrim womenfolk–who are believed to have only been four in number by then.

The Pilgrims’ guest list was rather lengthy as well. Ninety Wampanoag Indians from a nearby village gathered with them. That puts having 20 family members over for Thanksgiving dinner in perspective, huh? But the Indians were well-mannered guests and brought a hostess gift–5 freshly killed deer. I guess it is the thought that counts because such a gift would make me lose my appetite for a big holiday meal.

We, of course, could use the Pilgrims as inspiration for adhering to CDC guidelines this year. An outdoor meal is suggested. Turkey, but not deer, al fresco it is! See? There really are some positives to be found in this turkey of a Thanksgiving 2020.

Just WONDER-ing:

Will you be abiding by CDC guidelines for observing Thanksgiving? If so, how? What positives can you find in this surreal Thanksgiving 2020? Have you ever stopped to think about the details of the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims?

Toe-Tapping Thanksgiving Tune

Americans love to celebrate holidays. We decorate for the occasion, eat special food, and gather with friends and family. Music also plays a part in these celebrations. We sing patriotic songs on the Fourth of Ju and beloved carols at Christmas. Although we have much to be thankful for on Thanksgiving, a plethora of Thanksgiving tunes is not one of those things. Other than “We Gather Together” and “Over The River And Through The Woods”, it’s slim pickings for tunes related to Turkey Day.

Thanksgiving is such a big holiday that it just isn’t right to lack tunes for the occasion. Thus, I decided to do something to fill the void. I sat down and wrote some entertaining lyrics which are meant to be sung to the catchy and well known tune to the Christmas novelty song “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.” For Thanksgiving, I give you “Grandma Got Run Over By A Gobbler.” Come on and sing these lyrics with me. All together now:

Grandma got run over by a gobbler                                                                                    C            Cooking food for our Thanksgiving feast                                                                                  You can say there’s no need for Mylanta                                                                                    As for me and Grandpa relief please

She’d been cooking too much turkey                                                                                          And we begged, “Throw in the towel”                                                                                            But she’d gotten too ambitious                                                                                                        So she hurried out the door in search of fowl

When they found her Thursday morning                                                                                    At the scene of the attack                                                                                                          There were claw marks on her apron                                                                                        And turkey feathers sticking from her cap

Grandma got run over by a gobbler                                                                                      Cooking food for our Thanksgiving feast                                                                                  You can say there’s no need for Mylanta                                                                                     As for me and Grandpa relief please

Now we’re all so proud of Grandpa                                                                                                He’s been slaving over Grandma’s stove                                                                                    See him in there making stuffing                                                                                          Basting Butterballs with cousin Joe

It’s not easy without Grandma                                                                                                        All the family’s yearning for her yams                                                                                        And we just can’t help but wonder                                                                                        Should we serve the Tom or eat some ham?

Grandma got run over by a gobbler                                                                                      Cooking food for our Thanksgiving feast                                                                                  You can say there’s no need for Mylanta                                                                                     As for me and Grandpa relief please

Now the meal is on the table                                                                                                        And the goblets full of wine                                                                                                          Plus a big and pretty platter                                                                                                       That’s just the spot for Grandma’s bird divine

I’ve warned all my friend and neighbors                                                                                    It’s a better workout at the gym                                                                                                    You should never chase a turkey                                                                                                Who knows the Thursday menu highlights him

Grandma got run over by a gobbler                                                                                              Cooking food for our Thanksgiving feast                                                                                  You can say there’s no need for Mylanta                                                                                    As for me and Grandpa relief please.

Copyright 2011

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and to all a good nap after your big Thanksgiving meal!

Just WONDER-ing:

Why are there so few songs about such a big holiday as Thanksgiving? Would it be Thanksgiving without a turkey to serve? Other than Grandma getting run over by a gobbler, what could happen (or has happened in the past) to ruin your Thanksgiving?

Turkey Traditions–Are They For The Birds?

Say Thanksgiving, and the first thing that pops into one’s mind is turkey. A traditional Thanksgiving meal features a turkey front and center. But eating turkey on Thanksgiving isn’t the only turkey tradition Americans observe. Let’s gobble down some information on other turkey traditions.

Once the featured bird has been carved, a carcass is left. This remnant can only mean one thing–the wishbone must be found! A familiar turkey tradition is snapping the wishbone in two following a meal; the individual with the bigger of the two pieces supposedly will have his wish come true.

How in the world did we end up so focused on a little bone? The answer dates back thousands of years to the ancient Etruscans. They believed birds could predict the future, so they’d pick up bird bones, stroke them, and make wishes on them. When the Romans came along they modified the practice from stroking the bones to breaking them. Apparently chickens were in short supply, so two Romans would pull on one wishbone to break it into two pieces so they’d each have a bone. The Romans spread this practice to the British Isles as their empire grew. When English settlers came to the New World, so did their wishbone practices. With wild turkeys in abundance in their new digs, the settlers switched from chicken bones to turkey bones.

So breaking a wishbone is historical, fun (except for the turkey donating the bone), and potentially fulfilling (if your wish comes true). I’d say that this turkey tradition should get a thumbs up.

A turkey shoot is another turkey tradition. It’s a shooting contest in which frozen turkeys are awarded as prizes. Participants fire shotguns at paper targets 25-35 yards away. These events are popular in rural areas and are often held in November to coincide with Thanksgiving.

In their original form turkey shoots weren’t pretty, PC, or humane. Instead of shooting at paper targets, participants would shoot at actual turkeys. In some instances turkeys were tied down in a pen and shot at from 25-35 yards. If a turkey died, its dead body was awarded as a prize to the shooter. In other instances, turkeys were buried in the snow up to their necks. The object was for a participant to shoot the turkey’s bobbing head from 100 yards away.

This turkey tradition definitely gets a thumbs down from me. Although no animals are harmed in the current version of the turkey shoot, deadly weapons, competition, and noise are involved. I’d prefer to think of Thanksgiving as a time of love, peace, and unity instead.

A more recent turkey tradition for some Americans is feasting on a turducken at Thanksgiving. Americans want to supersize everything so why should turkey be left out? A turducken is fancier than a plain old turkey; it is made with three different kinds of meat whose names are combined to form the word turducken–TURkey, DUCk, and chicKEN. To make a turducken, a deboned chicken is stuffed in a deboned duck which is in turn stuffed into a deboned turkey. Layers of stuffing are placed between the birds.

Turduckens are most often associated with New Orleans and Cajun cuisine. The late Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme claims to have invented this dish. And you’d pretty much have to be a chef to make his version of a turducken. Prudhomme’s recipe calls for 30 ingredients and 8 hours of cooking.

Turducken is a modern turkey tradition which would get a thumbs down from me. Simple pleasures are the best, and you just can’t beat a simple turkey baked for Thanksgiving. Why mess with success? In addition, if you used Chef Prudhomme’s recipe, who’d have time to make the required side dishes like mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, etc.?

One turkey tradition requires Thanksgiving celebrants to push back from their dinner tables and get off their couches to participate. It’s a turkey trot! A turkey trot is a footrace held on or around Thanksgiving Day. The oldest documented ongoing turkey trot in the U.S. is an annual event in Buffalo, NY. which has been held continuously since 1896. Seems like that event should be called a Buffalo Trot since it occurs in Buffalo and no turkeys are involved.

In Florida the Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot occurs on Thanksgiving Day in Clearwater. This family-friendly annual event boasts over 17,000 registrants. Races are offered for different skill levels including walkers, recreational runners, and competitive runners. Proceeds from the turkey trot benefit local charities.

A turkey trot is a turkey tradition which gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from me. Participating in such event is much healthier than consuming thousands of calories while sitting at your dining room table and then playing couch potato the rest of the day. And raising money for charity by trotting on Thanksgiving is just the whipped cream on the pumpkin pie.

The final turkey tradition to consider is leftovers. For some, the leftovers from Thanksgiving are more anticipated than the original feast itself. Therefore, turkeys are often purchased which will provide not only meat for the holiday meal but for leftovers thereafter.

And how will those leftovers be eaten? A popular choice is a turkey sandwich, particularly the Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwich which contains various leftovers besides turkey.  A classic sandwich combination is turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy between two slices of bread.This sandwich has become a year-round menu item in New England where it is referred to as the Pilgrim or the Gobbler.

Leftovers get a double thumbs up as a turkey tradition. After spending days preparing for and cooking a large Thanksgiving feast, who wants to cook more? Heating up leftovers or making a turkey leftover sandwich is a smart move for tired hostesses. Even better, leftovers taste terrific and are readily available.

Some turkey traditions, like turkey shoots and turduckens, are turkeys. We could end those traditions, and I’d be thankful. Other turkey traditions such as breaking a wishbone, a turkey trot, and leftovers are positive traditions which we should be thankful to keep. Regardless of what your turkey traditions are, it’s comforting to have Thanksgiving traditions you observe on a yearly basis. But being thankful should be a daily habit and not a once a year event.

Just WONDER-ing:

What turkey traditions do you observe? Have you ever participated in a turkey shoot? A turkey trot? Have you ever eaten turducken? If not, would you want to try it? What’s your favorite Thanksgiving leftover?

 

 

 

 

 

November Turkey Talk — Mideast Mayhem

It’s November, so we should be talking about turkey, right? While the bird which will grace your Thanksgiving table is certainly a timely topic, another timely topic is the country of Turkey. Mayhem abounds in that area of the world, and we can be thankful we aren’t there. And, due to a recent decision of our Commander in Chief, a thousand or so U.S. troops aren’t there either. Let’s talk Turkey about this news.

Back on October 6th, President Trump made an abrupt and controversial announcement that U.S. troops were being pulled from northern Syrian which borders Turkey. At the time, approximately one thousand American military members were based there. This figure was down from the 2,000 troops with boots on the ground in Syria the previous year. Woo hoo! Less troops in harm’s way in this dangerous area of the world.

A troop reduction in Syria should have come as no surprise to anyone. Why Trump campaigned for the presidency on a promise to end U.S. participation in wars such as in Syria. After becoming president, he first announced his intention to withdraw troops from Syria in 2018. So what’s the fuss? I mean, he did what he said, right? But some were taken aback that Trump decided to remove the troops pronto. His exit strategy was to exit. Period. Right then.

What was Trump’s rationale for the troop withdrawal? He wants to get the U.S. “out of these ridiculous endless wars.” The troops were in northern Syria in the first place because of an “age-old conflict” between Turkey and the Kurds, many of whom are located in northern Syria. The president noted that America is “not a policing agent.”

Turkey and Syria are neighbors; they share a border which is approximately 511 miles long. Nevertheless, their relations are anything but neighborly. Populating northern Syria along the Turkish border are Syrian Kurds who number around 1.7 million. Why doesn’t Turkey like its southern neighbor? Do the Kurds play their music too loud? Nope. Turkey considers the Kurds to be terrorists who must be eliminated. And by eliminated, I mean killed.

And the Kurds aren’t just living in northern Syria. They make up about 20% of the population in Turkey. The Kurds in Turkey have been stirring up trouble in their country an attempt to establish their own state. In fact, the Kurds, who per CIA estimates number between 25 and 40 million, are the world’s largest ethnic group without its own state.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (“PKK”) has been fighting for autonomy in eastern Turkey for 30 years. And by fighting, I mean carrying out violent acts such as bombings and assaults; it has a long history of conducting terrorist attacks. Moreover, the U.S. has formally designated PKK as a foreign terrorist organization. So, you can see why Turkey isn’t really keen on the Kurds in its own country.

But what beef does Turkey have with the Kurds living in northern Syria? They didn’t carry out any violent acts in Turkey. Well, Turkey views the Kurdish militia that dominates the U.S. backed Syrian Democratic Forces (“SDF”) as being aligned with the Turkish Kurds’ terrorist group PKK. The Syrian branch of the PKK is YPG. Are you A-OK in grasping this background? .

Let’s recap. Turkey doesn’t like the Kurds. It doesn’t like the Kurds in their country, the PKK, because the group engages in terrorist acts. Turkey doesn’t like the Kurds in northern Syria because Turkey thinks they are in cahoots with the Turkish terrorist group PKK. The Turkish Kurds don’t like the Turkish government because it quells their separatist movement. Got it? Now, how does the U.S. fit into all this? Well, its like many relationships. It’s complicated.

The U.S. teamed up with the Kurds in Syria to fight ISIS. In this context the U.S. armed YPG, the Syrian branch of Turkey’s PKK. Kurdish-run detention centers in Syria hold thousands of captured IS fighters and their families. According to some reports, about 11,000 detained ISIS terrorists are being guarded by the Kurds. The bottom line is the U.S. was allied with the Kurds against ISIS. But the Kurds don’t get along with Turkey, a NATO ally of the U.S. not to mention an area of strategic significance to our country. What’s a world power to do?

Well, President Trump decided not to risk a war with Turkey over the Kurds, so he ordered U.S. troops to high tail it out of Syria. This executive decision led to intense bipartisan criticism. (I mean, does anything he does escape criticism? But I digress.) President Trump was vilified for abandoning our Syrian Kurdish allies; naysayers felt the U.S. owed a huge debt to the Kurds for helping us contain ISIS.  Trump responded that the U.S. may have left Syria, but it was not abandoning the Kurds.

Turkey, on the other hand, was delighted when the U.S. troops pulled out of Syria. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered an assault on the Syrian Kurds before the dust had settled from the U.S. troops’ departure. The aim of this military operation was to push Kurdish militants back from Turkey’s southern border and deeper into Syrian territory.  Can’t you just hear the Turkish commanders urging their troops, “Push ’em back, push ’em back…?” Trump, living up to his statement that he was not abandoning the Kurds, sent Vice President Pence to Ankara to broker a five day ceasefire.

But the plot thickens. Now Russia is in the mix. The U.S. supporting the Syrian Kurds gave Turkey a reason to buddy up to Russia. Turkish President Erdogan met with Russian President Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi to discuss the situation. Hey, if you have to talk politics, you might as well do it in a relaxing and beautiful location, right? Turkey and Russia struck a deal to establish a 20 mile safe zone with no Kurdish forces along the Syrian border. Now Russian military police are patrolling the Syrian-Turkish border along with Turkish troops.

Whew! What a headache to try to understand this complex situation. It has the makings of a good political soap. Will ISIS take advantage of the U.S. troops’ departure to make a comeback? Will Turkey and the U.S. kiss and make up after the U.S. teamed up with the Kurds in northern Syria but has now physically left the area? Is Putin gloating that he’s playing footsie with a NATO ally of the U.S. and getting toehold in the Mideast? All this Turkey talk is making me thankful that all I have to do is prepare a turkey for Thanksgiving and that I don’t have to deal with Turkey trouble.

JUST WONDER-ING:

Have you been following the news on the pullout of U.S. troops from northern Syria and the aftermath thereof? Did you realize that Mideast relations were so complex? Should the U.S. be involved in what’s going on in northern Syria? Why or why not? If so, to what extent should our involvement be?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gobbling Up Turkey Trivia

Happy Thanksgiving! What a wonderful holiday it is–unless, of course, you are a turkey. Turkey is synonymous with Thanksgiving, so it behooves us to know something about this bird. I’m pretty sure that your friends and family would rather talk turkey trivia than to wade into the troubled waters of political discussions. So let’s learn a few fun facts about turkeys.

The majestic bald eagle is the national bird of the U.S.A., but the turkey might have gotten this designation. Early in our country’s history, a move was afoot to make the turkey the country’s bird. However, Thomas Jefferson successfully opposed this idea. Hence, male birds became known as “Toms” in a not so subtle dig at Mr. Jefferson. Yes, politics was ugly even back then.

While news stories about mass shootings are becoming more commonplace, we don’t hear about the mass execution of turkeys. Does no one care about the targeted turkey? According to the National Turkey Federation, 45 to 46 MILLION turkeys are killed each year for Thanksgiving. That’s a whopping number of fatalities of our fine feathered friends.

If Bambi were killed for a feast, there would no doubt be a hue and cry from the public in general and animal lovers in particular. Funny, I don’t recall learning about any protests at the first Thanksgiving where the Pilgrims celebrated with the Wampanoag tribe; venison was the main meat on that menu. Not being a fan of deer meat, I have yet another thing to be thankful for today; I won’t have to eat Bambi or any of Bambi’s relatives.

Concerned about putting on a few pounds from your Thanksgiving feast? The turkey which is likely front and center on your holiday dining table is not worried about his figure, but the hostess must figure out how much meat is required to serve her guests. An average turkey purchased for Thanksgiving is sixteen pounds. And Martha Stewart advises that the cook count on having 1 1/2 pounds of turkey for person for this size bird. If you get a scrawny turkey, i.e., under 12 pounds, you should plan on two pounds of turkey per person. And I thought that a quarter pounder contained a lot of meat! Hope each diner has a big plate to hold this mound of meat.

And does being PC fly out the window at Thanksgiving? Well we know the turkey is unable escape his doom by flying out the window because domesticated turkeys cannot fly. Turkeys are native to the Americas. In fact, they are the only breed of poultry native to the Western Hemisphere. If Native American Indian rights are protected; why are Native American turkeys not accorded similar protection and recognition? Enquiring minds want to know!

Gender differences exist between male and female turkeys. Toms (adult males) are the only turkeys who can gobble. The (non-gobbling) female turkey is called a hen. Perhaps the tom is gobbling because he is hen-pecked?

Pork may be the “other white meat,” but turkey is another white meat. A typical turkey is 70% white meat and 30% dark meat. Those who wish to maintain a healthy diet on Thanksgiving (good luck with that!) should opt for the white meat which has fewer calories and less fat.

While millions of turkeys will get to meet their maker so Americans can feast on Thanksgiving, at least one bird will have a great holiday. And who is that lucky turkey? Why, the National Thanksgiving Turkey. It has become tradition for the president to grant a pardon to this bird; he saves the turkey’s life and makes political hay at the same time. Stays of execution have been issued by presidents for years, but President George H.W. Bush was the one who came up with the idea of “pardoning” a turkey. The pardonee is then sent to live out the rest of his days at an animal sanctuary. I am not sure what heinous crime the turkey committed to be facing a death sentence, but at least he was spared to see another Thanksgiving.

And to make the pardon even more special, presidents have been asked to pardon turkeys with cutesy names. In 2013, President Obama pardoned Popcorn. Another year he pardoned Tater and Tot. Last year President Trump pardoned Drumstick and Wishbone. This past Tuesday Peas and Carrots received a reprieve. Trump even tweeted to ask citizens to vote as to which of these two birds would be the media star for the pardoning ceremony.  Let’s not ask Florida voters to weigh in. By the time their votes are counted (and likely recounted), it might be Easter.

For a turkey, Thanksgiving is both the best and the worst of times. He is the star of the holiday show, but he won’t get to enjoy it because, well, he’s dead. For Americans, Thanksgiving is the best time for us. We have federal authorization to take a holiday and count our blessings; we probably won’t count the calories we consume though. We can be thankful that we live in a country that, although flawed, allows us many freedoms which others in this world do not have. We have a higher standard of living that most. We will have food on our Thanksgiving table and friends and family with whom to share it. And last, but certainly not least, the midterm elections are over. Let’s talk (and EAT) turkey, not politics today.

Just WONDER-ing: Do you prefer white or dark meat? Would you eat either if you personally had to kill your turkey? Other than delicious food, what do you have to be thankful for on Thanksgiving? Is there any reason not to be thankful every day?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Thousand And One Arabian Tales — What’s The Saudis’ Khashoggi Story Today?

What do Scheherazade and the Saudi government have in common? Both are really good at telling tales to keep the listener on the edge of his seat thus prolonging the narrator’s life be it physical or political. Scheherazade, according to the title of her stories’ collection, One Thousand And One Nights, came up with 1,001 tales. The Saudis have not concocted that number of tales yet about the current Khashoggi drama, but the ones they have disseminated have been pretty entertaining.

In case you have been living under a rock, or perhaps a magic lamp, the media is abuzz about “Where’s Jamal?” Apparently no one cares about poor Waldo anymore. Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist who went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd to obtained needed documentation for his upcoming (fourth) marriage. His fiancée awaited her beloved’s return in a car outside the consulate, but he never came back.

The first story which emerged from the Saudis was that Jamal was alive and well–somewhere. They didn’t know where he was because, conveniently, security cameras had filmed him leaving the building. OK, so Jamal gets the paperwork for his marriage and then leaves the building blowing off his betrothed waiting outside for him. I’m not buying that story. Bingo! The man caught on camera was impersonating Khashoggi.

Come on Saudis! Use some imagination. If I were going to explain Jamal’s disappearance in this manner, I might suggest that one of Jamal’s three ex-wives, upset that he was marrying yet again, accosted him outside the consulate and swept him off to “discuss” the situation. Yeah, that sounds good–or not.

The fiancée wasn’t buying any story about Jamal having emerged from the building. He hadn’t gone out, so the Turks decided to go in. Why? Somehow the Turkish government had allegedly gained possession of a recording indicating that Jamal had been tortured and murdered inside the consulate. The torture was rumored to have involved fingers and a head being severed. OUCH! In the Saudis’ defense, they could still truthfully say that Jamal left the building. They just didn’t tell the whole story. If the torture scenario was true, his lifeless body parts were removed from the building.

We interrupt these Saudi stories to bring you an explanation. What did Jamal do that warranted his death? Although Jamal was a Saudi, he was living in exile as a U.S. resident. In fact, he had been working in this country as a columnist for the Washington Post since September 2017. And what did he write about? To no one’s surprise, he was an outspoken critic of the Saudi government in general and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, age 33, in particular. Dead men tell no tales, so killing Khashoggi would shut him up for good.

Except that this strategy failed miserably. Khashoggi’s story became high profile with his disappearance, and with it the criticism he had leveled. In addition it gave a pretty good indication that the regime he was criticizing was ruthless.

The next tale which was spun was that Khashoggi died during a brawl inside the consulate. The Saudis explained that what really happened was that Jamal had been immediately seized inside the consulate by 15 (as in 10 + 5) Saudi intelligence operatives who had flown in on two jets (not magic carpets) just hours before to “confront” him. It takes FIFTEEN operatives to confront ONE journalist? Wow! The pen must really be mightier than the sword after all.  But, when the fifteen ganged up on the one, the one died. OOPS! That wasn’t the intent (or so the Saudis said). Just a quick aside. I’m selling swampland in Florida if anyone is interested in a great deal.

But wait! That’s not really what happened. What really, really happened, the Saudis now say, is that Khashoggi died as the result of a chokehold. That crack team of special operatives doesn’t seem so special after all. Don’t they read the American papers and know that bad things happened when cops used chokeholds on people? Guess not.

So far these three explanations have been floated by the Saudis, but they all appear to be sinking in the sea of validity. Hey, but at least they are keeping us entertained and giving One Thousand And One Nights a run for its money. Instead of Sinbad The Sailor, we have Jamal The Journalist. Jamal’s wonderful lamp is not rubbed to produce a genie; he sheds light on the shortcomings of his country’s government and gets rubbed out. Ali Baba may have had forty thieves but the Crown Prince has fifteen rogue operatives to steal Khashoggi’s life..

Knowing more about Khashoggi, the main character in these stories, lends even more intrigue to the setting. Khashoggi is not just any Khashoggi; he is a member of THE Khashoggi family which includes Adnan Khashoggi, a high profile Saudi arms dealer who was involved in the Iran-Contra affair. Uh, oh. Is it such a good idea to take out the relative of an arms dealers? Moreover, Khashoggi is a cousin of Dodi Fayed, the man Diana, Princess of Wales was seeing when they were both killed in a car crash in Paris.

While we may not reach 1,001 tales from the Saudis about what happened to Khashoggi, the situation is a cliffhanger which holds our attention. Just like Scheherazade’s king, we want more–info, stories, details. A genie can’t be put back in the magic lamp, and Khashoggi can’t be brought back to life. But Khashoggi’s death has catapulted the journalist into being the main character for 1,001 news stories. Perhaps recounting what we do know to be the truth, i.e., he met his demise for speaking his mind, will remind us to cherish the freedom of speech which we Americans enjoy.

JUST WONDER-ing: Have you been paying attention to this story in the news? Can you imagine what it would be like to live in a country where expressing your opinion about the government might be a death sentence? Is freedom of expression important to you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Talk Turkey

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This week Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving, a national holiday in the United States since 1863. Thanksgiving is pretty much synonymous with turkey, the bird gracing the platter in the middle of the holiday table. But this year, the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving gathering may not be poultry but politics, i.e., discussions (arguments?) about the area of the world in which Turkey is located. That’s Turkey with a capital “T” as in the country and not a bird Butterball is hawking. I mean what family gathering isn’t complete without heated debate between blood relatives who make each other’s blood boil with opposite stances on hot button political issues?

In case you have been living under a rock, perhaps one the size of, say, Plymouth Rock, it may behoove you to learn that hordes of Syrian refugees are in Europe and looking for a new home. Uncle Sam’s neighborhood has been mentioned as a possibility. Some kind-hearted and compassionate Americans have become cheerleaders for Welcome Wagon and can’t wait to deliver a nice, piping hot casserole to these refugees upon their arrival. Other, more security conscious Americans, are urging that we pull up the drawbridge to protect the womenfolk and children from murderous heathens who could blow us to kingdom come while we are at a concert or out to dinner.  Gosh darn.  Now while eating our Thanksgiving meal we not only have to decide what kind of pie to have for dessert (pumpkin? pecan? apple?), but we have to take a position on life-altering decisions for thousands of Syrian refugees?

Shifting the table talk to the presidential race is not an option.  That change will lead right back into the same debate because, of course, a candidate’s stance  on foreign policy issues is a key consideration.  Just ask poor Ben Carson.  He has been shot down like a Thanksgiving turkey, plunging from his #1 spot in the polls.  Why?  Perhaps it is because, as one of his top advisers claims, the good doctor is unable to process “one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East.”   That’s a bit harsh; he’s a neurosurgeon for crying out loud.  I doubt Middle East Affairs 101 was an elective in med school.  And how many of us could pick Syria out on a map if asked to do so?  (HINT:  It borders Turkey.)

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Instead of attempting to solve the world’s problems, maybe we Americans should just take the day of Thanksgiving to well, simply give thanks.  The fact that we are alive and (relatively) safe (for the moment) is reason enough to thank our Creator.  If we knew an iota about terrorism, we’d be thanking our Creator EVERY DAY for our safety.  Think ISIS is all we have to worry about?  HA!  The U.S. Department of State has an extensive “menu” of FTO’s (Foreign Terrorist Organizations) which it  has helpfully listed for us on its website.  Choose from approximately 60 named groups including Abu Nidal, Hamas, Boko Haram (currently ranked the #1 deadliest FTO), the Real (as opposed to the fake) Irish Republican Army, Shining Path, and the Palestinian Liberation Front, to give you security nightmares in addition to indigestion from your Thanksgiving feast.

The menu choice is yours this week.  You can have dinner with political debate on the side.  Or you can embrace the essence of the holiday and count your blessings while consuming copious comestibles (and presumably not counting your calories).  Let’s take time to be  thankful for life and provisions–whether white or dark meat; peacefully co-exist with your relatives and perhaps an annoying in-law for the day by avoiding divisive topics.   Pray for peace in and around Turkey while having a  piece of turkey.IMP0190013

 

 

 

 

 

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