Alternet.org: No Thanks to Thanksgiving – by Robert Jenson (Thanks to thereitis.org for this link)
Robert Jenson’s (a well-known and/or notorious, depending on how you see things, UT-Austin journalism professor) essay gives a good argument of why Thanksgiving’s dark side as a “white-supremacist” holidary shouldn’t be celebrated.
I definitely hear his point (but would note that the roots of Thanksgiving are shrouded in history and there is no consensus as to what the “real” story is), but I think I would have to differ with him on the final judgment.
I think Thanksgiving has two valuable social purposes in today’s America — the first being that it provides an oppotunity for families to come together over a meal (that often is prepared by the family itself, it in itself a good thing with homecooking being so rare these days). I know this sounds like a small thing, but in today’s world that is pretty cool thing.
The second valuable purpose (at least for folks of faith) is that Thanksgiving is a reminder to many that the blessings of life are from God. This is probably where I differ from Professor Jenson, as he sees the holiday as:
. . . the day when the dominant white culture (and, sadly, most of the rest of the non-white but non-indigenous population) celebrates the beginning of a genocide that was, in fact, blessed by the men we hold up as our heroic founding fathers.
. . . Any attempt to complicate this story guarantees hostility from mainstream culture. After raising the barbarism of America’s much-revered founding fathers in a lecture, I was once accused of trying to “humble our proud nation” and “undermine young people’s faith in our country.”
Yes, of course — that is exactly what I would hope to achieve. We should practice the virtue of humility and avoid the excessive pride that can, when combined with great power, lead to great abuses of power.
I see the holiday as being a day to be thankful, to remember that we owe a lot to God, but also to so many people who show us love and kindness each day. I think this kind of thoughtful, humble and reverent celebration of the holiday also should remind us that we don’t know everything and that we should look out for everyone.
I have no problem with casting off the “pilgrim story” mythology of thanksgiving (I’ve felt uneasy about it for a long time), but I think the ideas of families coming together and folks taking a moment to “count your blessings” is a really good thing.