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.
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.
for 24 November 2021
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.
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