Discover more from The Bulwark
All Things Turkey
Thanksgiving Content, recipes, and more.
Recently at The Bulwark:
Mona and Charlie’s Secret Pod: “Why won’t they listen to us?”
THE NEXT LEVEL: Thanksgiving Discontent.
You can support The Bulwark by subscribing to Bulwark+ or just by sharing this newsletter with someone you think would value it.
EDITOR’S NOTE: There will be reduced OVERTIME coverage Thursday and Friday due to the holiday. We’ll be back full bore on Monday.
THANKSGIVING CONTENT 🦃
Let’s talk turkey. Today we’re cooking out at the beach, but tomorrow we’ll be smoking a turkey. I wanted to go the Tony Cachere’s route, but was overruled. After all, we’re northerners. Today’s content is pretty much all Thanksgiving related.
Four great items for you to feast on.
I’m grateful for all the Americans who are fighting the descent into tribalism and moral idiocy, especially those who are putting their careers at risk to do so: Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Mitt Romney, and a few (sadly, very few) other Republicans. Also my colleagues at The Bulwark and my fellow panelists on Beg to Differ inspire me every day.
Reader feedback is a sensitive subject for writers. We roll our eyes when people misunderstand what we wrote, or demand that we track down some story or rumor they’ve heard. “I am not your research assistant,” I once testily responded. At the risk of special pleading though, I must say that Bulwark readers are a rare breed. Their emails are smart and informed and often help me think things through. That’s the best you can hope for in journalism.
Family. That’s the idea binding all these movies together: the desire to get back to a family; the desire to reunite and be accepted by a family; the sadness at seeing a family split up. Families, even when they’re creepy and they’re kooky, are the crux of the holiday.
Eric and Eliot discuss three dangerous men with Seth Jones who has written a new book on irregular or, if you prefer, political warfare. They discuss the active conflict in this domain in which the U.S. finds itself with Russia, China, and Iran as Russia's use of private military companies to serve as proxies in conflicts around the world.
Militant hyper-masculinity is the ideal of Christian manhood in the white evangelical world, and it's part and parcel of Trumpism and today's Republican Party. Author Kristen Du Mez joins Charlie Sykes on today's podcast.
However, if you pause for a moment and consider what you experience in your day-to-day life—what you’re seeing outside your window—you may find that none of those things square with your actual reality. Your life is probably . . . “fine.”
Statistically speaking, I mean. Of course, you might have gotten laid off in 2021. Or spent the last year fighting cancer, or losing your mother to COVID, or some other terrible trial. And to everyone out there who had a bad 2021, you have my condolences and the right to say that things most certainly haven’t been fine. But for the rest of us? Things are fine.
Maybe they’re not as fabulous as we’d like. They’re not great. But they’re also not terrible and not nearly as awful as they could be—by a very large margin. Trust me, I say this having lived in Soviet Russia where things were worse by a VERY large margin—and even that was long after the invention of vaccines and antibiotics, prior to which things were worse by an even larger margin.
The competitive instinct is so strong that, in family life, we go to great lengths to limit it. When families are functioning well, they tend to operate more like islands of socialism, anti-competitive to the core in all but the most benign ways. If anything, families lean toward the principle of “from each according to their means to each according to their needs.” The family is the place we go to turn off, or at least mute, the often bruising competition experienced in the rest of life. It is (or should be) a place of solace, rest, and restoration from the bruises we incur as we “truck, barter, and exchange” in society and the economy.
Sharing, rather than competing, is what makes family family. Adam Smith writes on the unique role of families in building a culture of sharing in his Theory of Moral Sentiments: “The earliest friendships, the friendships which are naturally contracted when the heart is most susceptible of that feeling, are those among brothers and sisters. Their good agreement, while they remain in the same family, is necessary for its tranquillity and happiness.” Families reach this tranquility by engaging in what Smith calls “habitual sympathy”—the long practice of fellow-feeling and mutual material and emotional support that helps us learn why and how to rank the happiness of others, especially those closest to us, as on par with our own. In this virtuous cycle of affection, self-giving, and love we are made fit for civilization, learning to curb our own desires and make space for others for their sake and our own.
But not every family is as dysfunctional as the Roys. We all have our issues, sure. But let’s remember:
Here’s where I’ll let you into a secret I’ve learned about the life of the family: It extends beyond itself. As an Italian monsignor told me, “A family produces more love than it consumes”—and in so doing, he said, becomes a beacon not just of care for others in this world, but of the love that awaits us in the next. When you gather this week, remember that your family—and all our families—are a source of life and hope in a world that sometimes feels like it will be overtopped by strife and conflict. That’s enough for any family to be. It’s more than enough.
I hope your turkeys are defrosting well… And that you’re ready for the gobble gobble. My assignment tomorrow? Cornbread.
If you need some last minute recipes? We have you covered! In 2019, we created a Thanksgiving cookbook with reader-submitted recipes.
A few of my favorites:
Larry Griffin’s World-Famous Bourbon Sweet Potatoes
Grandma Swift’s Chicken Noodle Soup (I’m biased.)
Michael Dukakis's Turkey Soup
White Castle Turkey Stuffing
“Shoo Fly Pie.”
We can always add to this, so if you have any recipes you’d like to share, drop me a line by responding to this email.
Also, our friend Matt Labash has some thoughts on Thanksgiving that you should read. Matt puts the "fun" in dysfunctional Thanksgiving. Check it out.
That’s it for me. We’ll see you tomorrow. Tech support questions? Email email@example.com. Questions for me? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. For full credits, please consult the article.