Thanksgiving Dinner: Your Best Preview of the 2012 Elections

East Village

The morning after the morning after Thanksgiving, every motorcycle and potted tree in Manhattan had been blown over. The streets were swirling pockets of trash. What a disaster! But the whirlwind that has been Thanksgiving will now die, as we face down the death of this heinous year. There are many varieties of disturbing Thanksgiving conversations; perhaps you had at least one of them. Maybe you’ve just endured one of my favorites, the Sudden Family Surprise Thanksgiving, in which strange secrets about family biology or ethnicity or religion are revealed. These become amusing over time. Perhaps you’ve had the awful I Realize I Am Old Thanksgiving, in which you realize that, for today’s four-year-olds, Lindsay Lohan will be their Marilyn Monroe. But now more than ever, I think, the Horrifying Political Conversation Thanksgiving is far more stunning than discovering that your brother is adopted or that Grandma Christine was a Jew. (Mazel tov, by the way!) Perhaps you’ve just spent the week breaking bread with perfectly normal-seeming people who, after a few drinks or at least too much exposure to the coasts, have revealed themselves to be, basically, Orly Taitz.

Often this year I have thought that we play the game of “look at that freak!” on the Internet much too often, and I don’t mean just the videos of people dressing up their cats, although perhaps those have gone way too far. All during the summer, outrageous videos from town halls and various (insurance-lobbyist-sponsored) demonstrations cropped up. We were alternately amused and horrified. The capstone on this wacky edifice was Addison “Joe” Graves Wilson, Sr.’s outburst of “You lie!” in Congress in September. It seemed to many of us out here, those of us who were reasonably happy that the Bush terms were finally over, that what we were seeing was some radical, reactionary fringe of craziness, suitable for pointing and laughing.

That these spectacles were backed and supported by long-active right-wing millionaires and rich corporations with a stake in the matter of health care reform made us feel safer. (Or at least smugger, to be fair.) It gave these activities a remove from the kind of authority we thought that an actual grassroots movement would convey. That view is incorrect!

Perhaps you learned at Thanksgiving that there are people to whom you are related by blood or by relationship-funny, kind, normal people-that also believe that Barack Obama is a liar, and a fraud, because he is probably not a citizen. Or at least cannot prove that he is a citizen. And that he also should be killed! Though you may be at first surprised that this is a topic for dinnertime conversation at all, there is a larger, lingering shock to that experience. That shock is that you intimately know people-otherwise amusing, interesting people!-who likely believe that our President is just another test of our nation and our patriotism in these End of Days.

It is beyond many of us how anyone can (already!) look with nostalgia at the record of the Bush administration, which started a war under false pretenses that took the lives of nearly 5000 coalition servicemembers, which rushed through an outrageous bank bailout that codified extreme financial inequity in this country, which signed into law the USA PATRIOT Act, a cluster of laws that created, as an intention or a byproduct, indefinite detention for immigrants and actually forced America’s librarians into the extreme absurdity of shredding lending records. Some already miss the idea of an administration that so hated the idea of government that they sought to hollow it out and make it inefficient whenever possible.

It’s reasonable for the rich, at least, to fear the Obama administration somewhat-they may actually be forced into obeying the Christian demand of supporting the poor. Why poor people in this country, on the other hand, have any reason to despise Obama-well, who knows? But both among the rich and the poor, the idea that our current President is a liar and a fraud has actually taken serious root in our country.

Craziness: it’s not just for wingnuts any more.

There is little doubt in my mind now that Sarah Palin will run for President in 2012, with or without Lou Dobbs or whatever popular entertainer is most popular the year after next. In the days that followed Thanksgiving, I was at least talked down off the cliff of believing that she will win in 2012 as well, at least. But out there in America, there are quiet, non-demonstration-going folks who really do believe that the Obama administration, led by a Kenyan or Indonesian impostor and a menace, is creating a great, overarching, population-controlling government.

This holiday, perhaps you were taken by surprise by the quiet, everyday population of birthers, and were stunned into silence-or, at best, shocked, inarticulate stuttering. That’s totally understandable. So, for now, the only thing to do is: prepare yourself for Christmas.