....LMB: "Turkey Jive"....

December 01, 2002

I saw my fair share of anti-Thanksgiving articles this year, the standard "you are celebrating the genocide of the Indians" pieces. On one hand, they are correct, and it is probably a good idea to get up in the faces of white Americans on a regular basis to remind them (or teach them for the first time) about the aspects of their history that they tend to forget.

But on the other hand, the anti-Thanksgiving pieces tend to knowingly pretend that anyone who celebrates Thanksgiving actually does so because of their great affection for or gratitude towards the pilgrim colonists of the 1600s. Thanksgiving is more or less a forced annual family reunion, filled with poultry-centric gluttony and football games, officially marking the start of the dark consumer frenzy known as "the holiday season." I think that the anti-Thanksgiving writers know full well that to most Americans, the holiday has nothing to do with pilgrims and Indians. So when they lean on the "official" meaning of the holiday to make their point, I feel they are being slightly deceptive.

Anyhow, I found one good critical Thanksgiving piece that doesn't fall into that trap. It focuses on the history of Thanksgiving-- not the 1621 New England feast, but looks at how the holiday was or wasn't celebrated from that day till the present.

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
(see a pattern developing here?)
December 1865- President Andrew Johnson establishes a national Thanksgiving holiday to celebrate the Union victory in the Civil War
October 1931- President Hoover becomes the first president to actual make a rhetorical connection between the national holiday of Thanksgiving and the pilgrims

Maybe I'm just a history geek, but I find that fascinating. What we have come to think of as a centuries-old tradition honoring the roots of American society, was more often a series of quasi-religious celebrations to say with joy "our enemies are dead, but we are not! Thanks, God!" The "roots" aspects were inserted centuries later, and by now have largely been replaced by a more New Age "what should I be thankful for in my life" philosophy coupled with shopping and nostalgia poisoning.

I think the important lesson in there is about the evolution of meaning. Stories change, ideas mutate, "ancient" tradition dies and is reborn in unrecognizable new forms.

Posted by Jake at 11:47 PM
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"I think the important lesson in there is about the evolution of meaning. Stories change, ideas mutate, "ancient" tradition dies and is reborn in unrecognizable new forms."

Ah yes. The US "Labor Day" for example--I didn't even know what it meant until I got into the later years of high school and was finally educated with any clarity about labor struggles and unions. Before that I thought it was a holiday to give a break to all the hard workers in our good nation.

heh.

But now it's completely morphed. Maybe we should re-name it "Eat Mechanically Separated Pork (Or Turkey If You Are Healthy)in a Genetically Engineered Bleached-Wheat Bun Burnt on an Outdoor Grill and Drink Fermented Beverages While Watching Primitive Rituals Involving Competing Teams to Determine Which Is More Masculine."

The way the advertisers make such a big deal about it is so creepy: "Have you stocked up for the big day yet?" It's like Armageddon or something, and you better damn well be ready with some Hebrew Nationals or we're shipping you to Laos with the rest of them un-American folks.

Posted by: michele at December 2, 2002 02:05 PM

You mean Labor Day doesn't celebrate women giving birth? Well, I'll be damned!

Posted by: Eric at December 3, 2002 01:18 PM

hot dogs.
me likey!

Posted by: art mooney at December 4, 2002 05:14 PM

uh, shut up, please. thank you.

Posted by: jeff at December 18, 2003 08:41 AM
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Media News

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

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