The First Thanksgiving, Dominant Culture Version, painted in 1932 by JLG Ferris. Native Americans in feathery headgear? Check. Native Americans depicted as half-naked savages even though it’s fucking November in Massachussets? Check. Native Americans depicted in positions of subservience to Whitey? Check Women depicted in positions of subservience to dudes? Check. Native Americans depicted as guests in their own country? Check. Whitey and Natives getting along like a couple of long-lost brothers? Check.
Every year when Thanksgiving Day approaches, I feel without fail a growing consternation inside me. I attribute this feeling to the inevitable emergence of the whitewashed historical record of this day and to the sudden attention that America directs toward the Native American Indians. — Robert Two Bulls
Dang. Thanksgiving. It’s one of those execrable Christian holidays, such as the 4th of July, Christmas, or a wedding, when all Americans suddenly become insensible of any guiding principle except an enormous cultural pressure to capitulate unquestioningly to the demands of patriarchal theo-consumerist tradition. In the case of Thanksgiving, blind adherence to custom requires the uncompromising conformist to binge on cloying, pedestrian “comfort” food cooked for 3 days by women, while men watch TV.
Then the women go shopping.*
Horribly, Thanksgiving’s repellent foodly intemperance is nearly always presented at some weird, un-dinner-like hour of the afternoon, then it’s back to the TV for the patriarchs, and back to the scullery for the womenfolk, where they scour off the carbonized substrate of the sugary sweet potato-marshmallow pie, wrap in foil the remains of the enhormoned, tortured Butterball, tuck into Tupperware the green been casserole made with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup and French’s Fried Onions, and chuck out the untouched can-shaped cylinder of Ocean Spray “cranberry sauce” that nobody understands, eats, or can live without. Afterward, everybody either falls comatose or writhes, suffering varying degrees of physical and emotional distress, on such seating — usually a small needlepoint footstool or one of the dining room chairs — as has not been previously commandeered by the football-watching males.
This ritual gluttony, which spikes pretty high on the Blame-O-Meter owing to its particular dependence on sex-based apartheid, is observed ostensibly to commemorate the patriarchally-approved European god-myths surrounding the so-called First Thanksgiving. The event in question, I remind you, was the first-ever harvest festival for neither the colonials nor the Wampanoag natives upon whose ancestral lands the European godbags had incursed (neither could it have been a particularly delightful meal: to any rustic midwinter ‘feast’ consisting of eels and corn-pone I could only award maybe half a star). This much seems probable: that, such as they were, the god-blessed victuals were consumed in 1621 by godbag colonialists who but for the intervention of the melodrama’s principle supporting character Tisquantum (affectionately known by tragically gullible American schoolchildren** as “Squanto,” the affable, gentle savage sent by God to show the clueless honkys how to feed themselves), would have snuffed it in short order.
It is not generally known, however, by either the aforementioned schoolchildren or their grownup football-addled parents that good old Squanto had been repeatedly kidnaped and enslaved by English opportunists (referred to in schoolbooks as “explorers”), and that his tribe had been all but wiped out by smallpox originating from you-know-where, and that his motives in coming to the godbag Pilgrims’ aid, given the chappie’s unpleasant history with the honky gang he referred to as “seaborn savages” (Miles Standish’s first act upon coming ashore was to fire his musket into a group of Wampanoags), may have been somewhat less altruistic than today’s nostalgic honky might wish to believe.
But I digress.
It is icky enough that this mythical feast we are patriotically bound to celebrate is inextricably rooted in the bloody Christian ideology that would spawn the murderous European colonialist sweep through North America and decimate the remaining indigenous civilizations (not to mention a bunch of forests and bison). What is ickier still is that nobody but a hopeless idealist believes that modern Thanksgiving revelers give even a flickering thought to the horrors of colonialism. In reality Thanksgiving Day just marks the kick-off of the Annual Season of God and Guilt with a pre-consume-o-rama carbo-load. Tomorrow, if you have the misfortune to find yourself in any American city, you depart your home at your own peril, for the day after all the thanks have been given is called Black Friday, and life is cheap. Legions of shoppers, still bloated from canned pumpkin products and of a frenzied disposition owing to their mounting MasterCard debt, will blitz the streets to snap up as much cheap crap from China as their bingo-arms can carry against the foreordained approach of yet another Christioconsumer “holiday.”
But I digress again.
Inevitably certain male honky journalists are asked on these sentimental occasions for their lyric interpretations of beloved American rituals. They find themselves unable to resist the golden propaganda opportunities afforded by the Thomas Kincadian Thanksgiving spirit, so they throw in a shout-out to those other sterling symbols of American fortitude, the “founding fathers.”
The “founding fathers” weren’t even born when the picturesque Plymouth Pilgrims with their big square buckles and starched white bonnets were depriving the Massachusetts waterways of their tasty eels, and they were dead as dirt by the time Thanksgiving was declared by Honest Abe Lincoln a national (tacitly Christian) holiday in 1863. Nevertheless, their mythical deeds and legendary works — selectively filtered, naturally, since many of these dudes have since been revealed as mere humans, or slave-rapers, or to have embraced deism only perfunctorily and in some cases not at all — have become, like the Pilgrim narrative, a sort of liturgy for today’s White Male Christian-American Orthodoxy. Invoked interchangeably with God by politicians and other meddlers intent on stirring up patriotic obeisance on occasions of enforced national togetherness, and against the perennial threat of enlightened or independent thought, the “founding fathers,” whatever their degree of actual enlightenment might have been, have been re-branded by dudely historians as princely, one-dimensional American patriarchal deities whose commanding stentorian pronouncements echo from their marble crypts: “thou shalt have school prayer, creationism, gun-totin’, and lap dancin’.”
Newsweek’s Jon Meacham, for example, has a Thanksgiving essay devoted to “The Ultimate American Holiday” in which he namechecks all sorts of 18th century Constitution signatories. By way of apologizing to the sane for the theological roots of this supposedly secular holiday, he avers that “history teaches us that religious impulse is intrinsic” (Yeah, just like my lipstick-wearing impulse is intrinsic).
Based on the improbable premise of religious intrinsicalness, Meacham gives beloved patriarchy a little lap dance of his own: Jefferson’s fabled “separation,” he says, is “between church and state, not between religion and politics.” On this wobbly semantic tweak he hangs his argument that even atheist Americans — whom, he notes from somewhere in Dreamland, are magnanimously tolerated by the religious majority — should joyfully embrace the grotesque Thanksgiving consumerist gorge-a-thon as a show of solidarity with their delusional godly countrymen. And because no Thanksgiving essay is complete without suggestions as to what to be thankful for, he opines that we heretics and non-believers “give thanks” (to whom?) for the “freedom” that allows us the golden opportunity to be tolerant of bogus secularism and to eat its turkey, albeit as social and intellectual outcasts who are going to hell, alongside the faithful.
Yup, Thanksgiving is the ultimate American holiday, all righty: the ultimate holiday of the same White Male Christian Americanism that brings you, among other things, everlasting foreign war, the sickeningly misguided “quiverfulls”, that poor 9th-grade kid in Utah who was gang-raped by the ‘religious conviction’ of her community’s ‘prophet’, the anti-immigration wall-to-nowhere, the 46.6 million Americans without health insurance (32% of all Hispanics!), and the humanitarian crisis that is the global oppression of women.
* It is not known what becomes of the men; possibly they are abducted en masse by misogynist aliens, during which interim they are injected with mind-control tinctures made from photographs of porn stars in chains.
** These are the same schoolchildren who are taught that God created America, that Columbus discovered America (strange, isn’t it, that God didn’t simply plant the honkys in their American paradise in the first place; He must have really had it in for those heathen Native Americans), and who are called ‘faggots’ by school board presidents for starting Gay-Straight Alliance groups (which the school board presidents call ‘sex clubs’.)