By Stephen Lendman, Senior Contributing Editor
Editor’s Note: As TGP contributor Lendman points out, a great deal of the hoopla and excess surrounding Thanksgiving is not just inappropriate (and considering the state of the world, obscene) but largely based on mythologies conducive to facilitating escapism and a reinforcing of the status quo in the U.S. The festivity also serves to strengthen the religious miasma that accurses this nation, and certifies our species blindness to the massive suffering of other creatures. —PG
On November 25, 2009, a New York Times editorial headlined, “A Thanksgiving Toast,” saying:
“Sitting down with friends and family today, there will be thanks for the steady currents, flowing out of the past, that have brought us to this table….And there will be prayerful thanks for the future.”
At a time when federal, state and local authorities increasingly turn a blind eye to growing poverty, unemployment, homelessness, hunger and despair, Times editors gave thanks for their blessings others lack.
They also ignored multiple imperial wars slaughtering millions, and draining trillions of dollars needed for vital homeland needs. What else to expect from America’s leading establishment broadsheet, serving wealth and power, not popular interests.
Its current Thanksgiving topics include:
- holiday football matchups;
“Thanksgiving Thrift: The Holiday as a Model for Sustainable Cooking;”
“A Radical Rethinking of Thanksgiving Leftovers;”
“Thanksgiving and Wine in the Willamette Valley;” and
other food and dining out topics.
Nothing substantive was discussed, including holiday myths, traditions, duress most people face, corporate crime, government culpability, and America’s out-of-control militarism and imperial wars.
Last Thanksgiving, a Washington Post editorial also fell short headlined, “Thanksgiving’s unchanging appeal,” saying:
“In a rough and challenging time, inhabitants of this land – including different peoples not always trusting of one another – come together to give thanks and perhaps to replenish their hopes of better, safer times to come.”
How can they when those in power and America’s media don’t care? A year later, things are worse, not better, and the worst is yet to come with planned austerity cuts hurting millions needing help.
Indifferent WP editors instead said we’re “fortunate to be alive and fed and sheltered, and the proper response to our good fortune is not self-satisfaction but gratitude.”
It’s hard comprehending such dismissive thinking given deepening social distress. At the same time, last Thanksgiving, corporations reported record third quarter profits because payrolls were cut, part-time and temp jobs replaced higher paying/good benefit full-time ones, and current staff had to work harder for less. They still do.
Rich folks never had it better. Millions of poor ones are lucky to have a roof over their heads and enough food for family members. Many don’t. Growing numbers are one paycheck from unemployment, impoverishment, and perhaps homelessness – without essential safety net protections unavailable to many across America in need.
Major media scoundrels don’t notice or care. No wonder federal, state and local authorities get away with crimes against humanity.
In America, Thanksgiving is celebrated on November’s fourth Thursday to give thanks for the year’s blessings and bounty. At least that’s how it began. It’s not current practice.
Most people defile its spirit in how they spend it, including overindulgent eating, parades, “can’t miss” football, and start of Christmas shopping.
It begins Thanksgiving Friday, reflecting an orgy of consumerism, continuing through Christmas eve, ebbing for a day, then building for a celebratory new year’s welcome with more overindulgent eating, drinking, partying, and binge-shopping for nonessentials.
Thanksgiving, like other holidays, is replete with myths and misconceptions. Children are told Pilgrims invited Native Americans to share their bounty in brotherhood and friendship. In fact, Pilgrims had nothing to do with traditional Thanksgiving. Native Indians originated it, observing fall harvest celebrations centuries before settlers arrived.
While George Washington had days for national thanksgiving, modern holiday celebrations date from 1863 when Abraham Lincoln tried boosting Union Army morale and patriotic fervor.
As a result, he proclaimed a national Thanksgiving holiday for the first time. Pilgrims had nothing to do with it. The term Pilgrim originated in the 1870s. So much for tradition that’s pure myth.
Government officials also use Thanksgiving to promote the illusion of US exceptionalism, moral and cultural superiority, and belief that God made Americans special like Zionist ideologues calls Jews “the chosen people.”
It’s a short leap from these views to judging others inferior, especially those ranked low in the racial, religious, ethnic or cultural pecking order. Blacks and Latinos are always marginalized. Today, America uses fear to wage war on Islam as public enemy number one.
Thanksgiving also has religious significance when Judeo/Christian traditions are dominant at a time separating church and state is weak, and endangered if Christian fascists gain power.
America was founded as a secular state. The Constitution’s First Amendment affirms religious freedom. In 1802, Jefferson called for a “wall of separation” between church and state. Earlier Supreme Courts agreed.
They ruled separation essential to prevent institutionalizing state religion and government embracing its trappings or expressions. That’s threatened if right wing ideologues gain power.
They were dominant under Reagan and GW Bush. They never went away and lurk menacingly. They tried but didn’t pass the 2004 and 2005 Constitution Restitution Act to have America governed theocratically.
Dominionists and their followers want church and state separation ended, Christian dogma enforced, and nonbelievers branded heretics.
Extremist ideologues like Pat Robertson, James Dobson and John Hagee embrace racial hatred, white Christian supremacy, blind adoration of leaders, male gender dominance, fanatical support for Israel, LGBT hatred, disdain for non-believers and intellectual inquiry, opposition to abortion but support for capital punishment, ending government involvement in all social services, predatory capitalism, and militarism, war and apocalyptic violence.
Under them, Thanksgiving might mandate observing Christian rituals, even for non-Christians. As now celebrated, it’s already shameful. A combination of overindulgence, partying and consumerism dismiss major world and national problems too grave to ignore.
Political Washington deserves much of the blame, ravaging the world and playing fast and loose at home. Countries are being destroyed, occupied and plundered. Constitutional rights are being lost. Police state repression’s increasing, including a total surveillance society and cops beating up on peaceful protesters.
At a time of growing poverty, unemployment and despair, millions now rage nationwide with good reason. They’ll give thanks when:
- social injustice ends;
- corporate crooks are punished;
- too-big-to-fail banks are shuttered;
- money power returns to public hands where it belongs;
- real elections end duopoly power;
- law principles apply to everyone;
- equity and justice replace capital’s divine right;
- wealth and opportunities are equally distributed; and
- direct democracy replaces today’s fake kind, giving “we the people” real meaning.
Until then, use Thanksgiving for reflection, atonement and activism for change. Street protests should replace feasting, football, and other [idiotic escapist] fun and games.
Family gatherings should commit to work together and enlist others for social justice, peace, environmental sanity, and government of, by and for everyone.
America’s now a dirty word. Illusion obscures reality. War and grand theft reflect state policy. No one’s safe anywhere at home or abroad. Humanity itself is threatened.
Hold giving thanks and get active to give it real meaning with enough commitment to make it happen.
There’s no other choice! The alternative’s too dire to accept! Believe it!
A Final Comment
Edward Herman sent the link below on “(o)ne of the finest cartoons ever published in the United States – Ron Cobb’s Thanksgiving in America (Los Angeles Free Press, 1968).”
He recommended circulating it every year during the holiday season as a reminder of today’s reality:
TGP Senior Contributor Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
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