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.
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.