Scott Cawelti

About Scott Cawelti -

Scott Cawelti was born and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He taught writing, film, and literature at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) from 1968-2008, and has written regular opinion columns and reviews for the Waterloo / Cedar Falls Courier since the late 1970s.  He played for years in a folk duo with Robert James Waller and still regularly performs as a singer/guitarist/songwriter. Scott continues to teach as an adjunct instructor at UNI.



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  • Thanksgiving, the Perfect Holiday

    • Posted on Nov 20, 2005 by Scott Cawelti


    It’s nearly Thanksgiving, the perfect holiday. Christmas reeks of commercialism with religious myths overlaid on pagan rituals, Valentine’s Day amounts to a bonanza for Hallmark, and July Fourth seems more like public disturbances of the peace, booming and banging for the kids.  

    Memorial Day hardly gets noticed, nor do Presidents’ birthdays, which amount to little more than postal holidays.

    Thanksgiving, though, remains a pure, unsullied holiday.  We gather with friends and family, feast and toast our good fortune, and bask in the warmth of family and friendship togetherness, however briefly.

    In general we don’t do this enough. In our ever-more narcissistic, everyone-owes-me culture, gratefulness needs serious attention.  So let us offer heartfelt thanks this Thursday for:

    •         A president who didn’t in fact deliberately deceive us into going to war.  He’s probably not a pathological liar or a manipulative villain. He believes that what he did in taking us to war was right. Here’s the truth:  He was only lying to himself.  For that we should feel grateful, though a mite uncomfortable that he wields so much power.
    •         A country where gasoline is still cheaper than almost anywhere in the developed world. This highly refined substance remains cheaper than almost any other liquid, including bottled water in airports. Because it’s so cheap, we also can still pretend that we don’t have to worry where it’s coming from.
    •         Supermarkets with more variety at lower prices than the world has ever known.  Kings and their armies have killed for a tenth of what our corner markets sell for pennies.  Shamelessly, we take it all for granted.    
    •         People still willing to run for office, no matter how low the pay, how rotten the hours, how nasty the complaints.  Thankfully, candidates think public service is still worth it. To all those losers and winners out there, including Hari Shankar, John Runchey, Stan Smith, John Rooff, Tim Hurley, Curtis Hundley, THANKS.  May you continue to run and/or serve, even if a majority of us don’t notice or vote. 
    •         Gadgets that would have boggled even geek minds just a decade ago, from video Ipods to cheap video editing software to digital video and still cameras to Google Earth, a free computer program which gives closeup satellite images of practically anywhere on earth down to a few square feet, to global positioning systems, to channel-rich satellite television. We’re in the midst of a digital revolution that only a paranoid or a fool can hate. The rest of us should celebrate.  I still think they’re all magic, especially when they actually work.
      • A few brave authors out there who question the dominant culture’s deepest beliefs about itself. I speak of  Howard Zinn, who wrote American history from the outsiders’ perspective in “A People’s History of the United States.”  And David Stannard, whose “American Holocaust” should make us question our own culture’s roots in genocide.  And James Loewen, whose “Lies My Teacher Told Me,” should be required reading for all U.S. citizens.  Without such authors and books, we’d become insufferably smug about our place in the world.
      • Jared Diamond, whose recent book “Collapse” offers a clear warning about where we might be headed based on other cultures, from the Mayans to the Easter Islanders, all of whose cultures literally collapsed.  Yet it’s not all doom and gloom.  Diamond believes there’s hope if we learn from other cultures’ downfalls, the causes of which are strikingly similar.  
    •         Conservatives.  Though they’d prefer to live about a hundred and fifty years ago, before Darwin, women’s rights, civil rights, worker’s rights, and their all-purpose bugaboo, Big Government, they’ve managed pretty well. Indeed, they ARE big government, running both legislative houses and the presidency. Yet still they get no satisfaction.  I feel their pain.  I also recognize that there’s a little of them in every liberal, just as there’s a little liberal in every conservative. So we can all be friends, sort of. 

     I plan to mightily enjoy this year’s feast of thanks, since there’s so much out there that deserves thanks.  At least once a year. 


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    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
    • Holidays
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