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Apparently right-wing blog-o-nut Michelle Malkin is trying to spin her own “war on [holiday]” franchise (given the massive success of the Fox Corps’ “war on Xmas”), trying to stir up her masses about the way that liberal elites want to make everyone feel guilty for the things they love. I bring you the War on Thanksgiving! It’s tiresome stuff, cherry-picking Thanksgiving news items that conservative folks will choose to see as ridiculous examples of PC run amok.
To be fair, there is much more cultural conflict regarding Thanksgiving than there is for Christmas. The “war on Christmas” stuff was always bullshit, manufactured indignation that department store chains would say “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas”, as though people actually celebrated several different holidays during this time period (the bastards!). But Thanksgiving does raise the specter of several centuries of horrible/duplicitious/genocidal relations between white settlers and Native Americans. And as most modern Americans behave as though Native Americans have ceased to exist, bringing up the ghastly actions that led to the state of our current nation, can seem like nothing but an exercise in pointless guilt tripping.
But let me know re-re-repost my traditional Thanksgiving history info (based upon this article from Lip Magazine). Apparently I’ve been warring on Thanksgiving for some years now.
1621- “The First Thanksgiving”
November 1777- The Continental Congress declares a day of Thanksgiving to thank God for an American military victory over a powerful British general.
July 1861- Confederate Congress declares a day of Thanksgiving to thank God for their victory over the Union in the First Battle of Bull Run
April 1862- President Lincoln declares day of Thanksgiving to thank God for the Union victory over the Confederacy at Shiloh
September 1862- Confederate Congress declares a day of Thanksgiving to thank God for their victory over the Union in the Second Battle of Bull Run
August 1863- President Lincoln declares day of Thanksgiving to thank God for the Union victory over the Confederacy at Gettysburg
December 1865- President Johnson establishes a national Thanksgiving holiday to celebrate the Union victory in the Civil War
October 1931- President Hoover becomes the first president to actually make a rhetorical connection between the national holiday of Thanksgiving and the pilgrims
In other words, Thanksgiving was first the “thanks, Indians, for helping us colonists survive in your harsh New World” feast. Then, for around 240 years, Thanksgiving was a string of unrelated “thank you, God, for letting us slaughter the people who disagreed with us” days. Then for another 60+ years, it was the “thanks, God, for letting the North beat the South in the Civil War” holiday. And now, for the past 70, it’s been the Indian & Pilgrim thing again. Well, the Pilgrim thing coupled with pleasant/unpleasant family reunions and the baking of turkeys, pies and casseroles.
On top of that, a post on the Hullabaloo blog by “poputonian” from a few years back argued the 1621 “first Thanksgiving” in New England was preceded by a group of Spanish settlers who had a feast to thank god near what today is El Paso, Texas, in the year 1598. The event seems completely unconnected to the Puritans’ Thanksgiving, or to the known evolution of the holiday myth, but it seems worth mentioning just the same. If poputonian is right, then the “first Thanksgiving” may have been a Spanish affair several decades before the one that we have come to know.
So I guess I have several points here:
- “tradition” is not tradition (although it’s pretty easy to rile people up if you pretend that “tradition” is being challenged).
- holidays are not static traditions that are handed down over the centuries, they evolve and are sometimes intentionally shaped by people with goals and agendas.
- people tend to “give thanks” in celebrations like this due to a combination of survival, religion, and victory.
- the American “creation myth” of Thanksgiving has happy proto-Americans at peace with their Indian neighbors is pretty galling, what with the bigotry and genocide, and ongoing invisibility of Indians today.