Let's cover the elephant in the room, first. Thanksgiving is one big, giant, American lie. The pilgrims and American Indians didn't share a Thanksgiving meal in 1621. Thanksgiving was first introduced in 1637, by then Massachusetts Governor Winthrop, to celebrate the troops returning from massacring 700 Pequot Indians. Gov. Winthrop decreed that their safe return from the massacre was "God's will" and therefore, they would observe a day of Thanksgiving to God for it. America as tried to whitewash that event since the 1930's and school children are taught a giant lie. All of those symbols we've seen with happy pilgrims sharing a meal with happy native indians, all bs.
Now, this is only the most recent reason I wrestle with Thanksgiving Day. I only found out the truth about this in the last 5 years. Ain't the internet a wonderful thing? But, this one is probably the strongest reason, for me. In the last 7 years, I've also learned that I have ties to two different American Indian tribes. Lakota Sioux and Cherokee. Cherokee from the 1700's, and my grandfather was 1/2 Sioux Indian. So, naturally, the symbolism that comes with Thanksgiving hits a raw nerve with me. Couple that with the fact that my damned relatives denied that we had American Indian heritage my entire life, resulting in myself and my kids never being exposed to traditions, and I get rather testy about the subject. I feel robbed, quite frankly.
Then, there's the subject of Thanksgiving food. Maybe it's just the family I grew up in, but there wasn't anything appetizing about Thanksgiving dinners. Maybe the stuffing. Maybe. Perhaps the pumpkin pie, something I almost worship as sacred, perhaps. Other than that, Thanksgiving has nothing to offer me in the fine dining department. This is how I see Thanksgiving dinner.
I don't know those people, I got this image from Wikipedia. There's probably food on that table somewhere, there appears to be a turkey up there by the man at the head of the table. But, "traditional" Thanksgiving dinner doesn't get much more interesting than this. And, these people appear to be praying to God. But, for what?? For all the "blessings" we **Washichu have been given?? Oh, that's right, this.
Lastly, how about the Thanksgiving themed PTSD? Just thinking about Thanksgiving dinner sends my anxiety into the stratosphere and I don't even live in the same state as the people who made that the case! Thanksgiving dinner in my family was the day that all my clinically insane relatives from one side of the family congregated in the same house for an entire day to argue and fight and subject my brother and I to hour after hour of crazy and lunacy. Or, alternately, the mostly normal relatives from the other side of the family congregated to make us eat all the stuff we didn't like. Like Waldorf salad and minced meat pie. From what I hear, this is the norm at Thanksgiving in more households than just my relatives, but that sort of begs the question. Why do we do this every year?! What's the point???
For the last 10 years, Thanksgiving has been nothing to me but Family, Food and Football. Five years ago, I gave up the cutesy symbols associated with what everyone else was "supposedly there to celebrate and just concentrated on the three Fs. But.......some people, Native Americans included, say that that really isn't enough. Why do you still bother with the day at all? Don't you understand that it's really just as bad as if we had a day to celebrate Adolf Hitler or the Holocaust? They have a point, but in my head, I still struggle with the issue.
A lot of people gave me endless crap over still celebrating Christmas even though I wasn't a Christian. Why do you bother with Christmas? That's a Christian holiday! You're still eating a big meal during the Christmas season, and you're pagan! Why would you do such a thing if you're not really celebrating Christmas?
The thing is, no one has a corner on the holiday market. Getting people to see this is like herding cats. Just because Christmas happens to take place in December, that doesn't negate everything else that takes place in December. Not only that, but holidays evolve. Sure, Christmas started out as a Christian holiday, but today it is anything but. Today, Christmas as a commerical holiday, mostly secular. How many people actually even mention Jesus on Christmas? Not as many as you think. Are you going to tell the majority of Christmas revelers that they can't celebrate family and giving and Santa and reindeer and trees with lights on them? I doubt it. Moreover, are you going to tell Christians that by not abandoning December 25th, which has become something else entirely from what they'd envisioned, they're showing just how secular they really are? No, you're not. No one has a corner on December 25th.
So, why can't people who aren't really celebrating genocide have a nice meal with a turkey in it on Thanksgiving Day? Why is eating a turkey on the 4th Thursday in November seen as such an egregious affront to the suffering of the Native Americans? What matters is in your head and in your actions toward others, not in what you choose to eat, or even that you chose to eat that day! Some of us really aren't giving a nod to genocide.
When you give up the symbolism, finally accept and digest the truth, the injustice, the tragedy of the whole thing, you're still left with a national holiday. The holiday isn't going to go away because people finally know the truth. It will evolve, into something else. It's still a day off of work, when family still expect us to actually be social, eat food and watch football. At some point, the day just becomes a day about eating and sitting on a couch in a food coma!
I wrestle with Thanksgiving. I was raised as a white kid. I was raised as a white kid with absolutely NO culture to identify with. My parents shunned the German heritage, they shunned the English heritage, they downright denied the Native American heritage. I had, and still have, no real culture to identify with. I have to identify with a black and white Thanksgiving dinner. I'll never get to really know my heritage. As you can probably tell, I'm pretty bitter about this.
And, don't tell me that I can identify with "American culture". There hasn't been one person, yet, who has been able to even tell me what American culture is, exactly. It's like saying, "Oh, you can just identify with European culture." Which one?? Europe is made up of many cultures.....all of which my family gave up. American culture? We don't have one. We are a giant salad bowl full of different cultures, except my family shunned all theirs and we grew up like those people in the black and white photo. It's hard to explain.
A couple years ago, my husband and I ate our last black and white Thanksgiving meal. We haven't had another since then, much to my in laws' dismay. Every year, our meal isn't even Thanksgiving traditional. This year, we're having lasagna. We also stopped calling it Thanksgiving. We give thanks everyday. I, especially, do. Much like Valentine's Day, we feel like setting aside a day to feel thankful for your personal blessings or appreciate your loved ones means that you're too wrapped up in materialism and commercialism. We don't schedule days of "thanks".
This year, I'm going one further. I'm calling it what it is. We haven't associated it with pilgrims and indians since grade school. That's just the truth of the matter. The day has already evolved into something entirely different. We are actually going to observe two days, Thursday and Friday. Friday also has significance. While most people know it as Black Friday, it's also Native American Heritage Day. How many people knew that? Signed into law by George W. Bush.
And, since I hate "Black Friday" and everything it stands for....
(I don't know who made this, I found it. But, he/she owns it and I thank them cus it's damned funny!)
People will ask, "..but, what are you naming and celebrating on that day, if not celebrating a lie and genocide??". We aren't "celebrating" anything. We're eating food and watching football with family.
That's how it works. I know some people just won't accept that some of us aren't going to celebrate genocide, but we just aren't. Some will also think that just because we are eating on that day we're still celebrating genocide. But....again, we just aren't.
The Friday after is Black Friday for a great portion of the U.S. population. For me, it's Native American Heritage Day. Similarly, the 4th Thursday in November is American Thanksgiving. For me, it's Family, Food and Football Day.
P.S. There will inevitably be that "one guy" who takes issue with my comments about Black Friday and how I despise it and everything it stands for and will mention that I'm perfectly content to buy a bunch of food to eat that day. Here is my response to "that guy".
I buy the food 3 weeks in advance. Shut up, I was going to eat on that day anyway!
**Washichu is the Lakota word for "non indian" or "he who takes the best meat for himself".