The Last Holiday and the Next One

Here in the United States, we are taught in elementary school that our annual Thanksgiving holiday goes back to the story of the Pilgrims celebrating survival and harvest with their Native American neighbors.

But while that myth does underlie the holiday to a degree, Thanksgiving as a holiday started during the Civil War, when first a governor and then President Lincoln proclaimed it after the tide began to turn for the Union.

That is, we are giving thanks for the survival of our country after a rebellion.

Historian Heather Cox Richardson explains it here.

I find the Pilgrim story problematic, given the genocidal history of European settlers and the indigenous population.

But the Civil War history is something I can get behind these days, especially after a week when some leaders of the January 6 insurrection have finally been convicted of sedition.

I am thankful that the country survived the latest effort to destroy it by white supremacist authoritarians. The current crop of extremists are very similar to those who started the Civil War in that they believe the country should be run by white men, preferably wealthy white men.

We are still at risk from these people and should they succeed, Thanksgiving would become a travesty. But so long as we can keep holding them off, it is a tradition I can believe in.

I suspect that the Pilgrim bit was emphasized in an effort at “unity” post war. I’m not sure we were even taught that Lincoln started it in my Texas schools, where the Civil War was taught as between “us” and “them.”

But I felt renewed this past Thanksgiving when I realized I could give thanks that our democracy is still hanging in there. The U.S. has a lot flaws, but what it would be under the kind of authoritarians who think slavery was good and women shouldn’t vote is not to be contemplated. Continue reading “The Last Holiday and the Next One”

Feeling (Sort of) Thankful

I am inclined to think that an annual holiday that encourages everyone to be grateful for the good things in their lives is a good idea.

I know there are far too many people who don’t have much of anything to be thankful for, and I am not suggesting that they should be encouraged to be grateful by, much less to, the people who are profiting from their misery.

But in general, taking a little time to realize that there are positive things happening in your life can make it easier to deal with the crap.

It might be better if we held this celebration in the US at a time that didn’t conflict with the buy everything surge that passes for the Christmas holidays. It was more than a little disconcerting to open my email this morning and see almost nothing but solicitations to buy things.

I am personally offended by the entire concept of Black Friday. That we can’t have celebrations about something other than buying shit is a sad commentary on what kind of world we’ve made.

And we should certainly dispense with the myth tying Thanksgiving to the Pilgrims and the indigenous people who helped them survive. I mean, I’m sure they did give some thanks in company with each other, but the history that came afterwards destroyed all that.

A better back story would be Abraham Lincoln’s proclamations of a Thanksgiving during the Civil War, which encouraged people to be grateful for defeating those who were trying to destroy our democracy so that they could maintain both slavery and power in the hands of the wealthy. Continue reading “Feeling (Sort of) Thankful”