(T)hanksgiving or (t)hanksgiving?

November 22, 2013

Thanksgiving genocideIt’s always a good idea to know what you’re celebrating, for the sake of honesty if nothing else. 

As Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show said, “I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.”  While a statement like that might spoil the celebration it puts things into perspective.

American Thanksgiving (the holiday) as opposed to thanksgiving (the act) has become a tradition of feast, football and family that began with the invasion of the North American continent by Europeans and ended in near genocide. Maybe this is why, of all sports, football is metaphorically most appropriate for Thanksgiving since the invasion of territory is its central goal. In short, there’s some brutality and ruthlessness mixed with Thanksgiving’s traditional tale.

Acknowledging the distinction between Thanksgiving (big T) and thanksgiving (small t) may eventually lead to something good as opposed to something gluttonous, profitable and profane.  Thanksgiving  has devolved for many into an anticipation of mob-inciting sales sometimes ending in a trampling death of a hapless big-box associate by a pack of shoppers chasing the cheapest HD-screen, while thanksgiving (small t) is an act of humility and gratefulness having nothing to do with commerce.

In humility, we might first be thankful for the improbable earth. We are of the earth. We are earth beings. Without the earth we would not be. We could not breath, we could not eat, we could not love, there would be no families, yet the way we treat it and its natural abundance we’re transforming it into a sewer. I would be especially thankful if we would wake to the fact that wealth is not money and profit, that it has to do with sustainability, with an understanding that to demean the earth is to demean ourselves, to damage it is to harm us and all we love.

A second thanksgiving-worthy object would be what Bob Dylan in a song called “the genius of generosity” —the whole line is “They’re sucking the blood out of the genius of generosity”.  I’d be humbly and truly thankful if  “they” (we) would stop doing that. But that would mean turning our politics into something to be thankful for rather than something to loathe. It would mean turning Wall Street and our Congress from blood-sucking franchises of the Hotel Transylvania into habitats of true humanity. Dylan’s genius of generosity is that it broadcasts wealth instead of hoarding it, it sees itself in the other.

And last, but never least (especially on Thanksgiving), would be a profound thankfulness focused upon what  is central to Thanksgiving: the feast. For me this gratefulness would come when, as global citizens, we realize that agriculture as big business is like banking as big business. They’re both about making money. As Big-banking is first in the business of creating millionaires among bankers before serving their customers, Big-agribiz is first in the business of realizing profit before producing healthful food. We’re being poisoned by pesticides, genetically modified organisms, growth hormones in animals, and any chemical required to most profitably produce a product that sells. If by some standards it might not even be strictly classified as food (Twinkies, for instance), has no bearing on its production.

Americans have more to be thankful for than any nation on the planet. I’d be most thankful if we were thankful for the essentials, the genius of generosity that sustains the objects of our thankfulness and distributes rather than hoards them.

How thankful I’d be if Thanksgiving were really thanksgiving, with a deep awareness of our place in the world that sincere thanksgiving requires.

Jim Culleny
for The West County Independent


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