Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In Defense of Thanksgiving.

For any American who looks closely at the classic imagery of European settlers and Native Americans breaking bread, but also beyond, to the intents and motives behind these pictures and fables, there is a strange celebration of genocide in waiting. The mythic images of puritans in their brass buckled hats, shaking the hands of bare-chested “Indians” is bigger than one lie, it’s a whole series of euphemisms and falsehoods.
I think of the life-size dioramas in the main lobby of the Museum of Natural History here in New York City and imagine that while these two cultures are pictured peacefully meeting over roast turkey, slaves are shackled to the floors of galleons, making their way to a life of misery and death in the “new world”. I imagine that right after dinner, the Plymouth settlers ask the Indians to leave and begin erecting the fences that will begin much of the warfare that will soak the United States’ origins in blood.

The earliest Thanksgiving on record in North America was on September 8, 1565 in the area of St. Augustine, Florida by Spanish settlers, but most Americans, in keeping with our Mayflower foundation myths recognize the harvest festival of 1621 on Plymouth Plantation as the very first. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and on the second Monday of October in Canada.

Few holidays are as eagerly anticipated, economically important, and consequently derided and heavily criticized as this annual “harvest festival”. To be honest, it’s never meant much to me except good food being shoved into other good food, which is roasted and basted. To me, Thanksgiving has always meant old friends coming by, too much food, usually a lot of beer and wine, more pies than necessary and leftovers that almost eclipse the meals that spawned them in quality and taste. Try a Cuban sandwich made with Turkey and Roast Pork leftovers on toasted sourdough bread… it is mind-blowing. If it’s a holiday of excess, I’ll say it’s the best kind of excess there is, -wanton gluttony acknowledged. These might be two of my favorite days of the year, as they have traditionally brought our friends back to us, allowing us, if only for a time to be in close proximity of people we grew up with, lived with; lived nearby; or saw everyday.

During Thanksgiving, for a time, everyone is as close as they were, long ago, as in their childhood; or in some cases as they were as families before divorce, remarriage or adulthood scattered siblings and fragmented people who were otherwise much closer and saw each other more often. I guess that’s also the reason why so much fighting happens during Thanksgiving as well.

…Thanksgiving in America and in Canada also happen to be the absolute deadliest holidays on the roads. New Year’s Day isn’t even close. This year, with many more people driving than ever before (with the high price of flying, depressed economy and currently dropping price of gas) there will, in all likelihood, be an increase in fatalities which is as unnecessary as it is tragic.
Don’t drink and drive. Ever.

Give thanks for all that still you have, and have had in the way of people and friends in your life. I certainly will.

Thanks for reading our blog.

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