Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, scalloped corn, rolls, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, topped off with a piece of pecan pie with more whipped cream. So much food and so little time to eat it.

Thanksgiving is also a time to pause and give thanks for all of life's many blessings: Chocolate, coffee, toilet paper, remote controls, pretzels, Victoria's Secret Fashion Show on TV. While gorging myself on the above meal, these blessings keep dancing through my head.

One of the things that strikes me as a serious non-blessing is our fascination and overwhelming endorsement of gambling. So here's to any of you out there who think you're going to beat the odds. Happy Flub-A-Dub. I'll bet you two to one I'm about to peeve you off.

It wasn't so many years ago gambling was thought of as bad. People of the Christian persuasion held firmly to the ideal that gambling would lead one down hell's path. Today, most of those same Christians are playing bingo in the church foyer and hot-footing it to the river boat every chance they get. Nary a word is preached from the pulpit today about the evils of gambling. I guess maybe it isn't so evil after all.

Early in his life, Paul Simon, distinguished retired Senator from Illinois, built his political fortunes on speaking out against what was then illegal gambling operations in Madison County, Illinois. He was at the time editor of a newspaper in Troy, Illinois. He was joined in his efforts by the father of one of my best friends, Rev. Hayward KehI. A couple of years ago I had an opportunity to talk to Mr. Simon about these events. When I mentioned Rev. Kehl, he immediately acknowledged him and praised him for his convictions and willingness to stand up against wrong. I asked him what he thought about the current attitude the government and citizens have taken regarding the widespread use of gambling to finance government. The only thing he said was, ''We're fooling ourselves.''

I would but it a little more straightforward. I think we're fools. While gambling does have a certain level of entertainment value, so does Russian roulette. People get sucked into using money they don't have, or money that they should be using for more productive purposes, in an ill-advised attempt to ''hit it big.'' The odds weigh in at 98 plus percent that you'll eventually lose. If it were just $10 or $25 bucks, well, maybe that wouldn't be so bad. But that's not the nature of the beast. The casino makes it easy for you to lose a whole lot more. ATM machines, lines of credit, and of course, cheap or free booze to loosen up your judgement. A lot of sound, a lot of lights, plenty to eat, all a psychological ploy designed to get you to spend our money. All of it. And more.

And the bottom line is always, ''Hey, somebody's got to win. It might as well be you.'' What a perfect con. Undeniable. People win. Someone hits the jackpot. Someone gets rich quick. Someone can now live the great American Dream: I made it big, and I didn't even have to earn it.

But what of the others? The losers. The thousands of dollars of credit card debt that has to be paid back. You never see them on TV. No full page ad's in the paper on the person who lost their home due to gambling debts.

A government that funds itself on our weaknesses is a government incapable of doing right. It is doomed by money that one is ill-advised to touch.

There is nothing to be thankful for when you con people out of their hard earned dollars in a reckless attempt to better themselves. It is a Flub that in the very near future will turn on us with a horrible vengeance.

But until then, I'm personally still hoping for the big one. After I scarf down that big Thanksgiving dinner, I might just try my luck. Maybe I'll see you at the Riverboat. After all, somebody's got to win, and I hope it's me, not you. And they say all the money goes to our kids' education. What better lesson to teach them than to show them that good can actually come from evil?

Uploaded to The Zephyr website November 27, 2002

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