....LMB: "Mighty Thanksgiving Rerun"....

November 24, 2004

Wow, I is smart. Found this old post I made two years ago, and it's still good stuff. So I repost it, and everyone is happy.

Turkey Jive

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 actually 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 01:23 AM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

I agree with you that most Americans don't celebrate T-day with any thoughts whatsoever about Pilgrims or Indians or 1600s colonists.

I see all of the Indian/genocide backlash as coming from people waking up and realizing that all of their childhood history and imagery was blatently wrong. Remember all those pilgrim hats and construction paper projects that we all had to make? Well, you get a little older, take your first Native American History class, and you start feeling a little embarrassed about what you were taught when you were 8.

That Pilgrim/Puritan imagery comes from the same stock as the Coca Cola Santa Claus and the fucking Easter Bunny. Actually they're really pretty cheesy.

We all should remember that Americans didnt INVENT celebrations at this time of the year, as fall harvest celebration have been around for thousands of years. We slapped our version right on top, just like we did with Christmas/Jesus/Santa Claus and the old Winter Solstice celebrations.

For me, when I read about old holidays/seasonal celebrations they always seem to be alot more interesting. Personally, I find the commercialized aspects of our holidays (Holy-days) to be pretty stupid, and extremely irritating. The frenzy of consumption and overindulgence is sickening. All of those freaked out people in the mall, angry and pissed off, pushing their way through Macy's just to find a stupid shirt for uncle Bill.

Overall, I think all the articles that are screaming about the Pilgrims and Indians are reacting to the ridiculous ideology that they were force-fed in grade school. The articles may not be addressing the official meaning, but they are addressing the idea of people waking up and understanding exactly WHAT they are celebrating, and why.

I personally have no interest in celebrating some holiday just because thats what we do. Maybe Thanksgiving has really lost meaning for lots of Americans, and they're in the process of remaking it. I'm all for it.

Posted by: ryan a. at November 24, 2004 08:35 AM

Somehow it's now our patriotic duty as consumer-citizens to go deranged during the Thanksmas season. The manipulation is unavoidable, the response near-total. Observe the frenzied willingness of millions of duty-bound consumer-citizens to overwhelm every airport, train station, highway, ferry landing, and mall at prespecified dates and times. Statistics -- number of trips, number of people, average roundtrip mileage, typical costs, road kill, house fires, food poisonings -- are meticulously kept and compared with those of previous years. A bizarre form of ritualized American competitivess. And so we have Thanksmas -- a holiday devoid of charm, sentiment, and meaning.
Frank Costanza was right.

Posted by: Miss Authoritiva at November 24, 2004 10:42 PM

Ya' know, I heard all these interviews with people who got up before sunrise to wait on line simply to get into a store. Then they waited in line again for the cash register, just for the pleasure of giving their hard earned money to some super-bigga' mega store.
All of a sudden Bush's victory makes complete sense.

helpful hint:
The only way to kill zombies is to cut off their heads.

Posted by: pipistrelle at November 27, 2004 12:27 AM
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Media News

December 01, 2004

Media Mambo

The Great Indecency Hoax- last week, we wrote about how the "massive outcry" to the FCC about a racy Fox TV segment amounted to letters from 20 people. This week, we look at the newest media scandal, the infamous "naked back" commercial. On Monday Night Football, last week, ABC aired an ad for it's popular "Desperate Housewives" TV show, in which one of the actresses from the show attempted to seduce a football player by removing the towel she was wearing to bare her body to him. All the audience saw, however, was her back. No tits, no ass, no crotch, just her back.

No one complained.

The next Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh told his shocked viewers how the woman had appeard in the commercial "buck naked".

Then, the FCC received 50,000 complaints. How many of them actually saw this commercial is anyone's guess.

The article also shows the amazing statistics that although the Right is pretending that the "22% of Americans voted based on 'moral values'" statistic shows the return of the Moral Majority, this is actually a huge drop from the 35% who said that in the 2000 election or the 40% who said that in 1996 (when alleged pervert Bill Clinton was re-elected). This fact is so important I'm going to mention it over in the main news section too.

Brian Williams may surprise America- Tom Brokaw's replacement anchor, Brian Williams, dismissed the impact of blogs by saying that bloggers are "on an equal footing with someone in a bathroom with a modem." Which is really funny, coming out of the mouth of a dude who's idea of journalism is to read words out loud off a teleprompter. Seriously, if parrots were literate, Brian Williams would be reporting live from the line outside the soup kitchen.

In related news, Tom Brokaw has quit NBC Nightly News, and it appears that unlike his predecessor, the new guy can speak without slurring words like a drunk.

PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror- in February of 2002, Donald Rumsfeld announced the creation of the Office of Strategic Influence, a new department that would fight the war on terror through misinformation, especially by lying to journalists. Journalists were so up in arms about this that the Pentagon agreed to scrap the program.

Don't you think that an agency designed to lie to the public might lie about being shut down, too?

This article gives some examples about the US military lying to the press for propaganda and disinformation purposes.

Tavis Smiley leaving NPR in December- African-American talk show host Tavis Smiley is opting to not renew his daily talk show on National Public Radio. He criticized his former employers for failing to: "meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio but simply donít know it exists or what it offers ... In the most multicultural, multi-ethnic and multiracial America ever, I believe that NPR can and must do better in the future." He's 100% correct. NPR is white. Polar bear eating a marshmallow at the mayonaise factory white. And the reason it's so white is that it is trying to maintain an affluent listener base (premoniantly older white folks) who will donate money to their stations. This is a great paradox of American public broadcasting, that they have a mandate to express neglected viewpoints and serve marginalized communities, but those folks can't donate money in the amounts that the stations would like to see.

U.S. Muslim Cable TV Channel Aims to Build Bridges- it sounds more positive than it is "Bridges TV" seems to simultaneously be a cable channel pursuing an affluent American Muslim demographic, and a way of building understanding and tolerance among American non-Muslims who might happen to watch the channel's programming. I was hoping it would be aimed more at Muslim's worldwide, but it ain't. Still, I'd be interested in seeing how their news programs cover the issues.

Every Damned Weblog Post Ever- it's funny cuz it's true.

Wikipedia Creators Move Into News- Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, created collectively by thousands of contributors. It's one of those non-profit, decentralized, collective, public projects that show how good the internet can be. Now, the Wikipedia founders are working on a similar project to create a collaborative news portal, with original content. Honestly, it's quite similar to IndyMedia sites (which reminds me, happy 5th birthday, IndyMedia!). I'll admit, I'm a bit skeptical about the Wikinews project, though. IndyMedia sites work because they're local, focused on certain lefty issues, and they're run by activists invested in their beliefs. I'm not sure what would drive Wikinews or how it would hang together.

CBS, NBC ban church ad inviting gays- the United Church of Christ created a TV ad which touts the church's inclusion, even implying that they accept homosexuals into their congregation. Both CBS and NBC are refusing to air the ad. This is not too surprising, as many Americans are uncomfortable about homosexuality, and because TV networks are utter cowards. But CBS' explanation for the ban was odd:

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples...and the fact that the executive branch has recently proposed a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast."

Whoa, what? First of all, the ad does not mention marriage at all. Second, since when do positions opposite of the Executive Branch constitute "unacceptable"? This doesn't sound like "we're not airing this because it's controversial", this sounds like "we're afraid of what the President might say."

Posted by Jake at 10:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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