So, who is stoked for Thanksgiving? Besides me. Word has it that another of my wayward distant nephews is making the drive up from North Carolina, 9 hours each way, just to spend late afternoon and evening with us. Boo-yah. He’s has to work Wednesday and Friday, but he’s coming–and that’s a whole lot of over the river and through the woods to deal with. We’re looking at about 90% attendance, and that rocks–and while we’re down one niece and nephew, we’ve added a niece-in-law (is that a thing?).
The only thing that comes close to the excitement of seeing all these little kids who have suddenly grown into young men and women is the sight of a blunderbuss-toting, hyperopic ballerina ia a french maid outfit hunting vainly for next Thursday’s dinner. Family love is great and wonderful and all, but the right to a well-armed ballerina is one of the basic tenants of our Great Union. That and the right to run cattle on public land.
But I digress. (It’s not like you thought that I wounldn’t–digress, I mean). I recently participated, albeit somewhat tangentially, in a discussion over at coldhandboyack following the host’s blog asserting that “Thanksgiving is dead,” a depressing but well-reasoned consideration of the changes and social trends that have led to a marked diminution of the holiday from sacred family event to pre-Christmas commercial opportunity. I agree with his assertions; however, my own opinions are considerably more bitter, cynical, and nostalgic. I’m not ready to see Thanksgiving fade off into that good night, replaced by the vapid superficiality of something like Halloween. In these regards, I fully embrace a conservative stance, the irony being that pro-commerce conservatives would like nothing better, I think, than to keep nothing about Thanksgiving except for the idea of the thing, as a scaffolding upon which to hang brighter and ever-gaudier solicitations to endless heights of consumerism.
Well, fuck that. For many years our ears were pummeled politicians droning on about “family values,” despite our nation’s collective rejection of some of the most traditional and visible markers of those values. Now granted, the commercialization of Thanksgiving isn’t the same as inequities in wages, healthcare, housing, and so forth, but it’s a big glowing example of our priorities. It was pointed out over at Boyack’s page that it’s all about shopping, but that social media hasn’t helped either, what with texts and tweets and even email relieving some of the longing for contact with loved ones we once had, while providing the illusion of interaction. A tweet does not a turkey dinner make, however.
Another interesting point someone made was that Thanksgiving has had a commercial element for the better part of a century, serving as a practical gateway to Christmas, and I concur. I’ll be writing in a few weeks about my family’s Christmas traditions and youthful memories, one of which was a trip to the “big city” where they had this wonderful place called a mall, an indoor sort of main street in which we could take off our coats and cross folks off our Christmas lists in perfect, 72 degree comfort. Black Friday, the commenter observed, isn’t about buying thoughtful gifts for others, it has become about scoring awesome cool crap for bargain prices for ourselves.
Now, I’m not a religious man by any stretch of the word. When I step into a church the paint peels off the walls and my shoes leave smoking footprrints on the carpet, but I know sins, and what we’ve done with Thanksgiving is a sin. Indeed, I’d argue that it is three–envy, greed, and gluttony. Not to mention the complete and total abandonment of any semblance of pride. Look at the photo above: I would never, ever, run for the opportunity to save a little money on crap I don’t need. It’s grotesque, there’s nothing else to say.
There is no reason why a holiday like Thanksgiving should dissolve–although many people instill it with religious overtones, the seeds of the season are cooperation (however exaggerated), perseverance, gratitude for what we have, and ultimately the establishment of our nascent country. No one who lives here, or loves the USA and it’s promise, has any excuse not to embrace it. Even indiginous, Native Americans could make a case for honoring the generosity and benevolence of their ancestors.
I would go futher in arguing that we MUST struggle to reclaim the simple, supposedly archaic values reflected in ths stodgy old chestnut of a holiday as a starting place from reclaiming the essence of what we can be. Melodramtic? Sure it is. That doesn’t make it bad. Now to do this, we need more than silly photos of our grandmothers’ generation posing in underwear with poultry, and I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.