It's nearly Thanksgiving and, for my iPod, that means only one thing: Arlo Guthrie. For some reason that's never been adequately explained to me, the playing of "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" (with four-part harmony and full orchestration) is integral to the enjoyment of a turkey and pumpkin pie-based holiday.
I used to wonder why a song that's really about nothing more than a pothead's arrest for littering and subsequent rejection from the draft (there, I just saved you 20 minutes of off-key rambling) is played on Thanksgiving.What does it have to do with thankfulness, pilgrims, turkey or Squanto? Nothing, really. Except, it does tie in to Thanksgiving.We don't have a draft anymore.
I'm thankful for that. Our country isn't divided along racial lines to the extent that riots and massacres happen on metropolitan streets. America isn't afraid of having Russian nukes dropped on our heads in the night, and children generally get along with their parents. "Alice's Restaurant," then, is a reminder of everything that was wrong - horribly wrong - and a subtle urgency to notice that the state of affairs has improved and continues to improve, both home and abroad.
When the song was released in 1967, the average human life expectancy was 67 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A baby born this year can expect to live 80 years and be more youthful and healthy for longer.
While there are wars going on all over the globe, consider the numbers. Iraq has claimed the lives of 4,362 American soldiers. 59,159 Americans died in Vietnam, to put things in perspective. For an even more sobering outlook, the Battle of the Bulge was responsible for twice as many American deaths as the entirety of the Iraq War.
Think about that: one battle, twice as many dead. Things have improved.I remember grade school; I'm sure you do as well. Did we ever have to cower under our desks while our teacher told us that the little bit of particleboard would protect us from a nuclear blast? I didn't.
Hell, I never even knew what an air-raid siren sounded like until I stated watching war movies. Our parents did, though. Ask them what it felt like to be a terrified little kid waiting to be vaporized.
I'm glad I don't have to.In 1967, flu, polio and malaria, along with smallpox and the measles, were still relatively common all over the world. Now we have a pretty decent handle on their prevention and treatment.
Certainly that's an improvement.Finally, consider this: Modern medicine has advanced to the point that you can't really be sure how old a person is based upon their face because it may have been augmented through surgery. Scientists have mapped the human genome.
Injuries, which would have called for amputation (such as the devastation of breaking of one's foot) 40 years ago, are now completely treatable with a couple of well-placed screws. The world is certainly better.So give thanks this Thanksgiving! And remember: you can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant.
Aaron Davis is a junior English major who realizes that the actual reason we celebrate Thanksgiving is the football- watching food coma. Right?