Thanksgiving is a time of family. A time of reflection. A time of giving. And a time of stuffing. It is a time when a man or woman, sometimes a slightly intoxicated man or woman, crams their butter-coated hand into a turkey's butt. If this act were to be done to a live turkey, the person performing that act would immediately become famous, if they weren't already. They would be in all the headlines, on several talk shows, and asked questions like: "What were you thinking -- What was going through your head?" If there were video of this act, that person could instantly win ten thousand dollars on America's Funniest Home Videos.
I don't mean to be crass. Technically, it's not actually the turkey's butt. It's more of his 'back hole' -- or if I may be more detailed since my father was knowledgeable in the world of poultry, the turkey's 'two back holes' -- one larger 'back hole' that's really just the under side of the rib cage, and one above the turkey's hangy dangly thing that our family would cook, serve, and eat, but never discuss what it was exactly. When I was younger, my dad would joke with me that I should put that thing under my pillow and that night, the turkey butt fairy would come. I loved my dad more than anything but his sense of humor frightened me.
For me, Thanksgiving is also a time of un-stuffing ourselves. As the year winds down, we prepare ourselves to empty out the year that has passed and fill ourselves back up with the year yet to come... We think about the people in our lives that we love, that we lost, that we have yet to meet... Please ignore this paragraph. I was just trying to get my Rabbi turned on if he read this thing.
When I drive past a house during the holidays, and I see the smoke billowing out of a fireplace, I know, that inside that house, on that kitchen table, there's a turkey carcass, open-winged, open-legged, its body ripped apart and eaten by the entire family. If that turkey could talk, its last words would probably be, "I'll see you all in hell!! And which one of you ate my hangy dangly thing that used to be my ass!!"
But thank God, turkeys can't talk. They can only gobble. And they are a bird. A very nervous bird. You'd be nervous too if you knew that one day someone was going to cut off your head, and fill your butt cavity with stuffing. Although I know a few people that would welcome it. I can almost see them reading this right now, saying to themselves out loud, "You got that right!"
The holidays are about people. All people. Caring about the people in your life. Even though you may not see them anymore, talk to them anymore, have driven a wall between you and them that is irreparable... You know that one day... if you have enough money... they will come back to you. Unless they have what my dad used to call 'integrity.' If you had friends that are no longer your friends, perhaps it was the time to let them go. I've known people that only liked me for what money I had. I call those people, "Honey."
So as this time of thanks unfolds, be kind to each other. And be kind to the turkey. Think about the sacrifice he has made. If we give thanks, and bless this turkey for giving of himself, he won't curse us as we feast upon and eventually digest him. We all make sacrifices. That too is part of the holiday spirit. The giving, the receiving, the stuffing, and the excreting. Sometimes if it's your old Uncle Nate, it winds up being right there on the sofa. That's where slipcovers could come back in vogue. Perhaps only during the holiday weekend. I don't know why, but I picture Uncle Nate wearing an old beige suit with the pants buckled up way over his stomach, just below his breasts.
I do have a wish for you all. May all your holidays be filled with the blessings that life can bestow. And though, for all of us, in different ways, this has been a tough year, try to remember something my father taught me. Something I reflect upon that occasionally has helped me through a tough time... That at your moment of suffering, somewhere in the world, some unsuspecting turkey is about to have a fistful of gravy shoved deep into his ass.
So when you ask me, "Why do you love Thanksgiving, Bob? Is it the memories of the traditional Pilgrim garb of square buckles and square-toed shoes? Is it the festive holiday colors of brown and orange? Is it the cornucopias on the table with odd varnished vegetables we have never eaten...?" I can look you right in your eyes and tell you with complete certainty why it is that I love Thanksgiving...
It's the stuffing.
No stranger to controversial cover art, The New Yorker Thanksgiving issue depicts a gaggle of pilgrims scampering under a starry sky.
A woman crawls under a barbed-wire fence that could be the U.S.-Mexico border. Two men, sweat dripping from their hats, sprint across the barren landscape.
The illustration is entitled "Promised Land."
"American politics tend to be very practical and open-minded, so why would you consider throwing them out?" cover artist Christoph Niemann told Huffington Post LatinoVoices, referring to the popular view on undocumented immigrants. "The debate should be about how can a country benefit from immigration. America depends on immigration. The discussion will be more valuable if it is focused on benefits".
Niemann, an illustrator, animator and graphic designer, is a German native and legal U.S. resident.
"I'm an immigrant myself and what I always found staggering is that there are tons of Europeans who get green cards and I know some of them are not legal from the get-go and that never comes up," he said. "Having a racial undertone in this debate is extremely hurtful. It shouldn't have anything to do with where the immigrant comes from."
The artist said a complicated issue unfortunately had been simplified for public consumption.
"Too often in politics, very complex subjects are being turned into sound bites, so it's easy to take them apart," Niemann told The New Yorker.
"I draw a parallel between current immigrants and early settlers -- the hope is that it will provide context, to help keep things in perspective."
Indeed, the political discourse on immigration has been reduced to buzz words. Electrified border fences topped with barbed wire. Boots on the ground. Predator Drones. Illegal. Criminal. Terrorism.
At the Republican primary debate Tuesday night, it was again evident that the pack -- with Newt Gingrich apparently the exception -- would quickly dispense with the immigration problem by deporting the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
"I don't see how ... the party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century," Gingrich said. "And I'm prepared to take the heat for saying, let's be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families."
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a Tea Party favorite, countered with another politically-charged code word in the delicate immigration debate, the A-word itself: Amnesty.
"I don't agree that you would make 11 million workers legal because that in effect is amnesty," Bachmann said. "And I also don't agree that you would give the Dream Act on a federal level."
The Dream Act, parts of which Gingrich has praised, would allow some young people who came to the United States without documentation to qualify for citizenship.
"Now, Newt Gingrich might have a huge problem because he said we must take into consideration families that have been here for over 25 years," Niemann said. "I'm not a Gingrich fan but to think that among all his flaws and insanities, what will keep him down is having a more humane view on immigration, I find this insane."
He added, "I wish this whole debate would be a lot more sober and careful. These are people and it's about their aspirations."
It would have been nice to ask the GOP candidates about The New Yorker's thought-provoking Thanksgiving cover, the latest in a long tradition.
In 1993, a Valentine's cover by Art Spiegelman showed a Hasidic man kissing a black woman.
Another Spiegelman cartoon caused a stir in 1999. His cover llustration depicted a portly white cop in a shooting gallery taking aim at civilian targets. A sign said: "41 shots 10 cents." An obvious reference to the police shooting death of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant in the Bronx, the cover was denounced by the mayor, the governor and 250 police officers protested outside the magazine's offices.
Now, "Promised Land" is certain to resonate on both sides of the immigration debate. It suggests that the pilgrims, like many immigrants now, arrived uninvited. They prospered through perseverance and hard work, like many newcomers today.
In fact, studies from liberal and conservative research groups have found that members of the 1990s wave of immigration are successfully integrating into American life. They also tend to be more assimilated than counterparts in other countries.
A new report from the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan think tank, concluded that integration patterns dispelled the popular notion that Hispanic immigrants were not assimilating. The study tracked immigrants that arrived in the 1990s. Only 25.5 percent of them owned homes in 2000. By 2030, 70.3 are expected to be homeowners.
Ruben Rumbaut, a sociologist at the University of California, Irvine, who studies criminal immigration trends, said new arrivals to the nation are not violent.
"Immigrants are associated with much lower rates of crime and incarceration," he said. "And some of the safest cities are those with large immigrant populations."
"Everybody's ancestors were immigrants," Niemann said. "The idea of immigration is celebrated every year in the U.S."
And on the eve of that holiday tradition started by immigrants, the latest allegorical cover from The New Yorker is quite fitting.
Niemann said, "Cartoonists, not politicians, should be the ones who condense political discussions into simple images."
SEE OTHER CONTROVERSIAL NEW YORKER COVERS:
WATCH RELATED TO IMMIGRATION REFORM: