Just a quick note to wish you a happy Thanksgiving.
This is a bit of a conflicted holiday- it commemorates a joint feast held by the rightful citizens of our country and the (let’s face it) pirates who were later to betray and murder them on a colossal scale. The genocide of Native Americans is not something to be celebrated, and all of the ‘Pilgrims and Indians’ crap that comes along with this holiday makes my skin crawl. (If you aren’t familiar with the real history of Thanksgiving, James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me is a great place to start, as is this article from Counterpunch.)
But here’s the thing: outside of elementary schools, the ideology of conquest is really not part of the day for most people. I’ve never been to a Thanksgiving dinner where anyone even talked about patriotism and Pilgrims. The actual practice of celebrating Thanksgiving involves getting together with family and/or friends, eating a lot of great dishes that celebrate foods native to this country, watching football, shopping, and perhaps occasionally stopping to be grateful for the feast, the company, and your life.
Every culture has feast days; in this country, the two other big feast days are Christmas and Easter. This is the one truly secular feasting holiday, the one everyone can enjoy, and when you take away the horrific crimes that led to its founding, it’s actually really pleasant. I enjoy Thanksgiving, as a foodie, because it’s the one day where everyone cares about food, and it’s completely normal to obsess about turkey skin and spend the day in an apron and be proud of what you cook. It’s also a great opportunity to make seasonal dishes with local foods– Pennsylvania, where I’m writing this, is brimming with abundant squash, pumpkin and other produce, and there are parts of our state where you can’t walk down the sidewalk without running into a wild turkey.
So, am I wrong to enjoy Thanksgiving, given its bloody origins? Maybe. But I’m thankful to live in a country with people like Leonard Peltier and Winona LaDuke, among many, many others, who are willing to stand up and fight for a real democracy that respects the rights of all people. I’m thankful for the real, fresh food that is still available and worth celebrating in this prepackaged country, and I’m thankful to the people whose work went into growing it, transporting it and selling it to me. I’m grateful that my body is allowing me to eat. And I’m thankful to be spending my day off with my family, especially my grandparents. I’ll be raising my glass to all of those things tomorrow– not to the Pilgrims.
Enjoy your turkey, folks!