Wednesday Word: 24 November

I don’t like Thanksgiving. I never have. I don’t appreciate the the days of preparation necessary for one meal, much of which becomes an endless stream of leftovers that nobody wants to touch. I can’t eat the sugary things anymore and don’t want to eat a turkey. I spend far too much money to find an animal that was treated with dignity while he was alive, and that expense becomes bitterness when each year I take that first bite and remember that I really don’t like this meat. Or any meat. I tolerate some meat… Tolerance does not make for a centerpiece in a celebratory feast.

A turkey tree

I also don’t like the duplicity and don’t feel it’s very helpful or healthful to continue to maintain this charade. We all know the real story. Almost the very first act of the Pilgrims when they set foot on sandy Cape Cod was to steal the stored corn of the local peoples, ensuring starvation would remove those who hadn’t already died from Eurasian smallpox. And then, in a breathtaking act of hypocrisy, they declared the land empty and ripe for the taking, an Eden prepared for them by their god. Today we celebrate the thanks they gave to their deity when Massasoit’s people, the Pokanokets, showed the struggling newcomers how to farm in this new land. There is generally little thanks given to the Pokanokets, and all but one of Massasoit’s children were wiped out in the existential battles of King Phillip’s War, despite all the agreements made between Pokanokets and Pilgrims.

I’m not saying there was not bad faith on both sides, nor were they inhuman demons. (Well, most of them weren’t…) But this is not a time to celebrate with feasting. It is a history we should mourn. We should be standing at the wailing wall and fasting in remembrance of the days our European ancestors stole lives and livelihoods from people they then erased.

It is not possible to disassociate this lie from the Thanksgiving narrative because there is very little to replace it. This is a hollow feast. It is a harvest festival without a harvest. It is gratitude without an object. It was officially created to celebrate the Union Army victory at Gettysburg and, in order to be inoffensive to the defeated but still rich South, had all this nonsense about brotherly Pilgrims and Indians tacked on like fake feathers onto a bedraggled hat. By 1939, it was so far removed from any true tale, Roosevelt felt no compunction against moving it up by one week in order to extend the holiday shopping season in the time of the Depression. Because so many people had money to spend, you know.

And that is what I hate most. I hate the weekend. The glaring ugly plastic gluttony. I despise holiday shopping. I don’t want it to exist. Even when I was a small business owner, I hated Black Friday. Better a reasonable flow of revenue all the year on things people might actually need and keep and use and cherish than this vomiting up of money to spend on unwanted “gifts”.

And the paradoxical thing about all this is that I am grateful. I am full of thanks. I do not “practice gratitude”, setting aside a few minutes a day to be thankful. I am never not amazed, never not so very astounded that this earth provides, that my loved ones are mostly alive and well, that there is good. Everywhere. Even in this disaster. I don’t like the idea that most people have to be reminded to give thanks.

So I am grumpy this week. It is fitting that the weather is cold and grey and this flu virus seems to be here to stay. (Not COVID, I’ve been tested…) I will roast a turkey that took up entirely too much of my November food budget — simply to get a bird that was raised locally and without mistreatment. And I will probably sit here with my tissues and watch Charlie Brown, longing for a jellybean and popcorn feast with friends and rooting for the lawn chair.

Happy Thanksgiving…

Wednesday Word

for 24 November 2021

gratitude

You can respond in the comments below or make a Twitter post to the Wednesday Word. Either way, begin your response with #gratitude. Your response can be anything made from words. I love poetry, but anything can be poetic and you needn’t even be limited to poetics. An observation, a story, a thought. Might even be an image — however, I am not a visual person, so it has to work harder to convey meaning. In the spirit of word prompts, it’s best if you use the word; but I’m not even a stickler about that. Especially if you can convey the meaning without ever touching the word.

If responding in Twitter, you are limited to the forms of Twitter. I would prefer that there be no threads because that is difficult. So if you have something long, post it in the comments below. That said, please don’t go too long. Keep it under 2000 words. I’m not going to count, but I’m also not promising to read a novel. Unless it’s really good!

If I receive something particularly impressive, I’ll post it next week. If not, well, that’s fine too. I know you all are busy. But if you’ve read this far, then I’ve made you think about… gratitude.

involuntary gratitude

and it is decreed
that we shall be thankful
upon this day,
pay
homage to grim ghosts
who come with harquebus and book
to take what they may claim.
we shall bow in obeisance
to the once purified,
honor shivered assurance
of freedom from tyrants.
and we shall grin
in rictus
as we remember
the theft that founded this feast.
for lo! were they not mighty men
who unburied the seed stocks
and lay waste the safe harbors!
verily, we give thanks,
gratitude to greying gods,
that they came to these green shores
and turned the world
away from the sun.

©Elizabeth Anker 2021


4 thoughts on “Wednesday Word: 24 November”

  1. ^Gratitude^ for this post. I am of British origin living in Southern Africa rather than North America, so Thanksgiving is not a day I have learned to love nor endure – although your description of the Consumption-Cooption seems not much different to to the European Christmas. I was, however, struck by your observation of “practicing gratitude”. It brought to mind reading & thinking about the difference between suprise and astonishment in the face of revelations about the world within which I am enmeshed. We humans often express our suprise at the ingenuity of a particular animal to use tools or pratice certain social transactions, or the way in which a tree appears to communicate with other trees in a forest. As if a trait that is so ‘taken for granted’ as peculiarly human showing up elsewhere in nature is a surprising reinforcement of how brilliant we are for having had that trait in the first place.
    Rather than suprise, then, might we perhaps recognise a feeling of astonishment? This extraordinary unfolding of complexity, beauty, functionality and brilliance that is all around us every moment of every day. A momentary pause to reflect on what needs to happen in order for me to walk through a forest or sing a note is enough to demonstrate this, and make it, perhaps, *un*surprising. But to delight in the astonishment of it: to nod, to smile, and to feel ‘well, of course it’s like that’ and the resultant sense of entangled connection. Well, that feels like something to be grateful for.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is exactly what I feel and what I meant by the word “astonished”. It is a continual delight and wonder. A recognition that we are never alone or unwanted or alien. That we are enfolded into this beautiful world. A reminder that we are loved and cared for and all our needs are always met. It is joyously astonishing. And yes, a source of unceasing gratitude.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I too am grateful everyday without taking time to “practice gratitude.” Being vegan, and being that my husband’s work has always been retail (he too hates the Friday after Thanksgiving), he and I have crafted our own Thanksgiving celebration that has nothing to do with the American myth. We make vegan enchiladas, beans and rice for dinner. We make a pumpkin pie from garden-grown pumpkin and only sweeten it lightly with maple syrup. We bundle up and go for a walk at our neighborhood lake. We call our distant parents/family to wish them a good day. We are grateful for the quiet time together before the crazy business of the coming season engulfs my husband’s precious energy. It is a day of no obligations–no errands to run or chores to do. It is a lovely pause; a slow, deep inhale and exhale.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When the kids were young, we went hiking more often than not. I never managed to convince now-ex husband to go completely vegetarian and have cooked far more meat than I have liked. Nearing 100% more than I’ve eaten… When I had the bookstore, I used the day to make the seasonal shift from autumn to winter. Usually with the kids, but a few years just by myself. I enjoyed those Thanksgivings more than any others. As soon as Son#2 developed his love-affair with the kitchen, I turned Thanksgiving over to him. And even he doesn’t like it much. I make the cranberry sauce. Which is much better on this side of the country where there are actual cranberries that aren’t rock-solid unripe… or dried. (Little bit of ginger, little bit of clove, lots of orange juice…) I’m cooking a bird this year because Son#1 deserves a little continuity after this year of chaos. But next year… we’ll see. Probably black bean and sweet potato enchiladas! Which still works with cranberry sauce 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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