Falling In Line
This post is reprinted from Thanksgiving Day 2008, November 27.
Every once and a while I have to take off my re: The Auditors hat and put on the fancy dress of a typical member of a large urban, Catholic, ethnic, up-from-the-working-class family.
We celebrate the traditional holidays like anyone else although, like anyone else, they have become inextricably tied to some form of consumerism. As our family has grown, we’ve outgrown the traditional gathering at Mom and Pop’s for something more planned and formal. We are blessed with immediate family members who belong to country clubs and, I confess, I have become an elitist snob and prefer going to the club on holidays rather than to someone’s house.
It has something to do with being single, since it does make for an easy exit afterward and limited exposure to thousands of children under the age of 14 high on sugar looking for something to do after we’ve force fed them meat they only eat once a year. It also means no clean-up and no fake interest in football. I’d rather talk to the men in my family than watch them watch football.
The only thing I miss is the lasagna. When my mother cooked Thanksgiving and Christmas, there was always more lasagna than turkey and always more food taken home afterward than eaten that afternoon. Take-away trays of lasagna, home-made ravioli, manicotti, or stuffed shells were the huge benefit of growing up half-Sicilian.
Unfortunately, those days are gone unless I’m willing to make the trek out to my Aunt Concetta and Uncle Salvatore’s and deal with even more small children and more distant relatives majority of whom don’t have much interest in the future of the Big 4 or my critique of their global regulatory infrastructure.
After having spent so much time in Mexico, especially Chiapas, and South America, I also have become sensitized to the anti-Thanksgiving and anti-Columbus Day movements. I’ll leave you with this quote from an alternative history of the celebration of Thanksgiving.
Lies, Half-Truths, and What a Nation Will Tell Itself
Perhaps, given the patent falsehood of the Story of Thanksgiving, one of the better questions to ask as the holiday approaches is what, in fact, it really stands for. As a Cherokee, I have never felt much like celebrating an event that essentially commemorates one of several stages in the genocide of Native Americans by European settlers, a process which continues to this day in the form of environmental racism, structural poverty, and lack of educational resources. There were times, to be sure, when I appreciated sitting with my family and devouring an embarrassment of culinary riches. But those I hold separate from the holiday itself.
For me, this now agreed upon Thanksgiving symbolizes first and foremost the alarmingly subjective nature of history, which, as Howard Zinn reminds us, is almost always written by the winners. It symbolizes the triumph of football over religion, and of American commercialism over virtually everything standing in its wasteful path. And perhaps most importantly, it symbolizes the lies and half-truths on which a profoundly diverse country must depend in order to prop up the specious concept of a broadly shared civil religion or national identity.
Thanksgiving, then, symbolizes that there is still great work to be done before a nation that readily prides itself in its goodness, honesty, and wholesome relationship with Divine Grace will actually resemble the stories it tells itself.
Thank God for all blessings. God bless all creatures on his greenish earth.
First. then move to Chiapas. self-hate ain’t pretty. at least we know where your coming from. its not just anti-big 4.
Is sensitized the equivalent of being in agreement with a position? My own sensitizations tend towards not judging those who came before us with current sensibilities.
As a total aside, I’m always curious about the description “genocide of Native Americans by European settlers,” noted in the article you referenced. My highly leading question is the following; When one tribe goes to war against another, in which cases are the victors in deadly struggles not considered guilty of genocide?
Jorge Costales [no relation to any of the Bradford’s]
“Sensitized’ does not necessarily mean I’m in agreement with all aspects of a position, especially as an Anglo with regard to the very long, very complex history of indigenous people in Mexico and South America.
For example, while in Chiapas, I may have been sensitized and more empathetic to the claims that the Indians there made against the Mexican government but I did not necessarily agree with all of their points or some of their methods for achieving their objectives.
For more insight, I may suggest a book I read when I first started working in the region, “Open Veins of Latin America,” by Eduardo Galeano. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Veins_of_Latin_America
US students of my generation learned very little about Non-European cultures or the history of many countries as close or as important to the US as Mexico, for example. A lot of what I saw and heard and learned during the years of heaviest travel in Mexico and South America was news to me. This is even though I was a good student and very curious, reading quite a bit even as far back as grade school. It was information that was just not readily available to a Midwestern child.
I will make one point to respond to your pointed question. When Europeans fought indigenous people with guns and cannons and other firearms against their non-gunpowder weapons, it was not a fight between equals.
When tribes fought each other there may or may not have been massacres or genocide and the agressors can be judged based on available history, but at least it was perhaps a more level playing field if their weapons were similar.
In case you were wondering, I’m perfectly willing to acknowledge that Europeans and their immediate descendants had great advantages in their battles with indigenous people.
By noting that there ‘may or may not have been massacres or genocide’ you avoid the main thrust of my question.
So I’ll try again. Can’t the winner of any deadly battle be considered to have committed genocide, given the broad interpretation those you admire assign it?
Picking up on your point–say in a battle of indigenous tribes, one of them shows up with twice the men. You seem to argue that unless they would make the ‘extra’ men sit out the battle, they in effect are guilty of genocide given that they engaged in a battle with an uneven playing field.
My point is a very narrow one. However one feels about how territories came to be settled or conquered in centuries past, the attempt to equate legitimate grievances with the most horrific acts the world has ever witnessed is a mistake.
It’s not a mistake for everyone. For some, like failed Uruguayan ideologues, it might be all they have left.
Quasi-indigenous saludos from the heartland
Jorge, your question, it seems to me, has within it several pieces of propositional content that deserve to be unpacked. First is referring to European settlers as a tribe, when they had no such reality. To say when tribes fight other tribes is to misunderstand what occurred in North America. Secondly, your formulation is overly broad, almost to the point of being propositionally obfuscating (peoples fight; is the winner really to blame?): many battles are fought without the express intent of extermination. Most of them, in fact. U.S. Indian policy went very, very far beyond a war of conquest, in ways too numerous and well-documented for me to bother cataloguing in a blog comment. Suffice it to say that genocide is, as the actual definition says, “The deliberate killing of a large group of people, esp. those of a particular ethnic group or nation.” Many many wars do not hold this goal or tactic, and that’s the distinction and perhaps the most direct answer to your, as you say, very narrow question. One side note of possible interest here is that many activists and scholars have worked hard for many years to even get what happened in the U.S. to be defined *as* genocide. Were they to succeed, all manner of international legal frameworks could be brought to bear.
Thanks for your input. fm
My pleasure, Francine. Thanks for referencing this piece I wrote. The newer, slightly revised version on LOUDCANARY qualifies the “genocide” reference a bit more directly… All best.
The pleasure is mine. I liked the piece a lot back when I first linked to it back in 2008.
I hope the day is as beautiful where you are as it is here today in Chicago.