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Problematic
November 22, 2009 5:14 PM   Subscribe

Thanksgiving is a difficult time for some people to celebrate. The holiday that Lincoln gave us has been saddled with a wonderful mythology. The real story is a bit more problematic, and involves a vicious, genocidal war. Is it possible to reclaim the beauty of this holiday, or is it too tainted by its history?

It's difficult for me to know what versions of this history to trust, and how to mark that history in a real way. I hear the critiques of Thanksgiving every year, and every year I wonder how to mark this holiday that I really do love. Pie helps.
posted by cubby (135 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think this is more Ask-ish or Chat-like. Pie is helpful no matter what.
posted by jquinby at 5:20 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanksgiving is a annual holiday celebrating turkey, stuffing and gravy. It's called Thanksgiving because we must all express our thanks to the person who has cooked the turkey, stuffing and gravy and is sharing it with us.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:21 PM on November 22, 2009 [7 favorites]



Buffy : So what happened to the Chumash?
Willow : How about imprisonment, forced labor, herded like animals into a mission full of bad european diseases.
Buffy : Boy. Cultural partnership center really didn't stress any of that stuff.

Willow : Buffy, earlier you agreed with me about Thanksgiving. It's a sham. It's all about death.
Buffy : It is a sham, but it's a sham with yams. It's a yam sham.
Willow : You're not gonna jokey-rhyme your way out of this.

Anya : Well, I think that's a shame. I love a ritual sacrifice.
Buffy : It's not really a one of those.
Anya : To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal. It's a ritual sacrifice, with pie.
posted by The Whelk at 5:22 PM on November 22, 2009 [37 favorites]


Give it back to the turkeys.
posted by Balisong at 5:32 PM on November 22, 2009


The counter-story is , well, perhaps not exactly true either:

"The grateful Pilgrims then declared a three-day feast, starting on December 13, 1621, to thank God and to celebrate with their Indian friends. While this was not the first Thanksgiving in America (thanksgiving services were held in Virginia as early as 1607), it was America's first Thanksgiving Festival."

But if we were ugly to those Connecticut Indians, they have had the last laugh. They now own two of the biggest money-earning casinos in the world.
posted by Postroad at 5:32 PM on November 22, 2009


The problem with Thanksgiving is the name. Who wants to thank people? It should be called Eatmas. Or Halloweat. Or Eatser.
posted by swift at 5:38 PM on November 22, 2009 [26 favorites]


I agree with most of the usual criticisms about Adbusters, but it doesn't stop me from enjoying Buy Nothing Day.
posted by box at 5:48 PM on November 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


I say we give up Thanksgiving altogether. Instead, we'll have a holiday in late fall where we gather together as families to have a bunch of yummy food and a good time.
posted by DU at 5:53 PM on November 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


When confronted with this, most people in the United States (outside of indigenous communities) ignore the history or attack those who make the argument. This is intellectually dishonest, politically irresponsible, and morally bankrupt.

And delicious. Now who wants gravy?
posted by dhammond at 5:54 PM on November 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


I celebrate it, but only because I have renamed it Thankstaking.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:55 PM on November 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


It amuses me that all three "critical" accounts of Thanksgiving differ in significant details about why it's bad, but mostly it's because of the genocide. Like, what year the first one was held, the relation of local thanksgivings to the national mythos, what groups were involved (the Pilgrims are not the Puritans, though they're both white).

So can we "reclaim" it? Not really—the claim is still valid. The taint is less damaging than, say, Columbus Day, and y'know what, Columbus still deserves to be celebrated too. Evil or not, he managed to make it across the water in the first major way.

Give me the roads of Rome, boy, and you can keep your Celtic culture.
posted by klangklangston at 5:58 PM on November 22, 2009


I say we give up Thanksgiving altogether. Instead, we'll have a holiday in late fall where we gather together as families to have a bunch of yummy food and a good time.

But ...the Corn needs blood.
posted by The Whelk at 5:59 PM on November 22, 2009 [13 favorites]


Also: Sorry, guys, you're not noble just because you lost. And I say this as a Lions fan.
posted by klangklangston at 5:59 PM on November 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


WE KICKED THOSE INDIANS OFF OF OUR LAND FAIR & SQUARE
posted by porn in the woods at 6:02 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


DU: "Instead, we'll have a holiday in late fall where we gather together as families to have a bunch of yummy food and a good time"

The individual words I understand, but the concept is beyond me.
posted by idiopath at 6:05 PM on November 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


Thanks what? You mean the day before Black Friday?
posted by washburn at 6:14 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


KEEP GIVING IN THANKSGIVING! Support Lincolnescque values! Vote Socialist!
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:15 PM on November 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is it any better if we celebrate it as a holiday rooted in ass-kicking some rebels and forcing the union to stay together? Because, uh, that is the real reason for the holiday, as the Lincoln link notes.
posted by norm at 6:21 PM on November 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Let's eat some turkey and have some fun!!! Good grief, lighten up. I can't control what happened 200 + years ago. Get off my back and let me enjoy my life without political bullshit polluting everything I do.
posted by wv kay in ga at 6:26 PM on November 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I don't really do historical guilt. Just give me some fucking tryptophan, 8000 calories, and a couch to myself.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:27 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


But if we were ugly to those Connecticut Indians, they have had the last laugh. They now own two of the biggest money-earning casinos in the world.

Cold comfort, that, to the ones they were "ugly" to...

Give me the roads of Rome, boy, and you can keep your Celtic culture.

But... Celtic music kicks Italian music's ass.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:30 PM on November 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Is it any better if we celebrate it as a holiday rooted in ass-kicking some rebels and forcing the union to stay together?

Um, yes? Certainly? Particularly if you word it more like "a holiday rooted in destroying one of the most intrinsically evil cultures the world has ever known".
posted by Justinian at 6:34 PM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


let me enjoy my life without political bullshit polluting everything I do.

Right, since "everything [we] do" is completely separate from all that messy context. Stupid politics and history!

In any case, I hope this survey is multiple-answer; I choose "C. Acknowledge the past", "E. Grumble about relatives" and "F. Pie hangover*."

*It's the sweetest hangover
that I don't want to get over.

posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:36 PM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


This seems odd. The mythos of the first Thanksgiving is about what happened in 1621, correct? Pilgrims almost died, Indians helped them out, the following fall they had a big feast. And all that pretty much happened. Things went to shit fairly quickly thereafter, and there was a brutal war between the white settlers and one of the Indian tribes in the area. And that's true too. But why should the latter affect the former? I mean, the Pequot wars merely foreshadowed King Philip's war, and the French and Indian war, and Andrew Jackson's entire damn career, and on and on and on right up until they dragged Sitting Bull out of his house and shot him...and beyond. It's not like the terrible crimes committed against the Indians are unknown. And yeah, we certainly prefer to gloss over 99% of the history and focus on the 1% percent where white settlers and native peoples actually got along. But that doesn't change the face that on the first Thanksgiving, they did.

And I don't think it changes the message, or why we choose to remember it. Thanksgiving is the purest of our holidays, with the simplest message: In tough times, it is meet and well to gather around us those we love to give thanks for having survived, and for the plenty which we have been afforded. Our fraught and terrible history is no reason to blot out such a moral.
posted by Diablevert at 6:39 PM on November 22, 2009 [30 favorites]


I feel this page is as good a thread as any to say this: My family needs 4 pies for the thanksgiving we're invited to, and we've decided two should be pumpkin, one should be apple, and I've been told to "be adventurous."

What's the best possible pie I can make with fresh ingredients or the frozen peaches? Adventurous seems to imply pecan pie and plain old peach pie are valid choices, albeit predictable.

So, let's have it. If you were on death row in a prison where you get only apple pie and pumpkin pie for food, and you're told you can have a dessert pie with anything in season in the Northeast, what would you tell the warden to put in your final pie?
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:40 PM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


But if we were ugly to those Connecticut Indians, they have had the last laugh.

If you know any indians who grew up on a reservation or have heard the life stories from within their community you probably know there's not much "last laughing" to be done. No victories there whatsoever.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:41 PM on November 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


Thanksgiving is a good day to fast.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:41 PM on November 22, 2009


Thanksgiving is a good day to fast.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:41 PM on November 22 [has unfavorites +] [!]
posted by jimmythefish at 6:49 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Right, since "everything [we] do" is completely separate from all that messy context. Stupid politics and history!

Yes, actually that's true. My eating turkey at Thanksgiving is separate from all that messy context. It has nothing to do with politics and history in my personal life. Maybe it's different for you. That's okay.
posted by wv kay in ga at 6:50 PM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


what would you tell the warden to put in your final pie?

Make a pavlova.
posted by pompomtom at 6:52 PM on November 22, 2009


[has unfavorites +] [!]

You can break your fast at sunset, chump.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:53 PM on November 22, 2009


mccarty.tim, may I suggest to you the most glorious pie that crowns my family's yearly bout of non-denominational gluttony: Fudge Pecan Pie. Molasses is key, as is decorating the top with unbroken pecan halves in a fancy shmancy circle pattern. All will devour its chocolatey crunchy goodness, and rejoice.
posted by Mizu at 6:54 PM on November 22, 2009


I have a tough time with this. On the one hand it's good to avoid glossing over terrible historical events. On the other hand there is virtually no holiday, nation, or people older than a few decades untainted by such events. So there has to be a balance between the two or one would live in a perpetual state of self-abasement for things in which one had no part.
posted by Justinian at 6:55 PM on November 22, 2009


what would you tell the warden to put in your final pie?

How about a persimmon pie?
posted by signalnine at 6:57 PM on November 22, 2009


Yes, actually that's true. My eating turkey at Thanksgiving is separate from all that messy context. It has nothing to do with politics and history in my personal life. Maybe it's different for you. That's okay.

Where do you get one of those context-free turkeys?
posted by box at 7:01 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


At the context-free turkey store.
posted by wv kay in ga at 7:05 PM on November 22, 2009



This seems odd. The mythos of the first Thanksgiving is about what happened in 1621, correct? Pilgrims almost died, Indians helped them out, the following fall they had a big feast. And all that pretty much happened. Things went to shit fairly quickly thereafter, and there was a brutal war between the white settlers and one of the Indian tribes in the area.


Squanto's life story is pretty interesting. He was a big value to the Pilgrims cause he *spoke English*. Some spanish too. The New World was pretty old by 1621.
posted by The Whelk at 7:06 PM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


wv kay in ga: "My eating turkey at Thanksgiving is separate from all that messy context"

A proper Thanksgiving can be parsed using regular expressions.
posted by idiopath at 7:08 PM on November 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


I don't know, but don't try to parse it with a regular expression.
posted by flaterik at 7:08 PM on November 22, 2009


damn you idiopath!
posted by flaterik at 7:09 PM on November 22, 2009


GONE TO CROATOAN.

For pie.
posted by Artw at 7:13 PM on November 22, 2009 [8 favorites]


What in the world? Now my comments are being parsed? It's just turkey for goodness sake!
posted by wv kay in ga at 7:15 PM on November 22, 2009


My family treats Thanksgiving like Christmas minus the presents, because of the whole Jewish thing. Thanksgiving is the big family holiday with the traditions and the delicious foods and family togetherness. If all you guys can comfortably celebrate Christmas without batting a hypocritical eyelash, then leave me my capitalist parade and turkey day, please.

However, Thanksgiving anecdote: My Dad works practically across the street from the National Museum of the American Indian in D.C. Every year, there's a massive drove of tourists who visit for Thanksgiving. They have fancy events and great exhibits, and the tourists are often actual American Indians and their extended family. One year my dad had to pop into the office on Thanksgiving day to grab a brief he was working on, and while walking past one of these families of Indians heading back from the museum, he overheard them chatter about their visit and their nifty souvenirs. Then the older man who was leading the group turned around, slapped his palms together, and said excitedly to his family: "Alright, who's ready for some TURKEY and PIE??" And they all did their own little victory dances and versions of "meeeeee!" and headed to their car.
posted by Mizu at 7:17 PM on November 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


I joke, and maybe a jokey response is all I deserve, but here's the thing: I think that where you spend your money, and your time and your energy, is a political act. When I say 'you' I mean you. Me, you, everybody.

You can disagree, of course, but don't think I'm all live-and-let-live about it--if you think your actions don't exist in a larger world of context and responsibility and consequence, I think you're wrong.
posted by box at 7:19 PM on November 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


mccarty.tim: adventurous? try mincemeat - Wikipedia has a nice Victorian recipe, calling for raisins, beef, suet, "a pottle of apples," and half a pint of brandy, among other things. To bring it up to date, I suppose you could substitute bacon for the suet...
posted by mr vino at 7:21 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's all well and good to be upset by this but we have to remember that virtually all national holidays (around the entire world) are celebrations of somebody else's genocide.

Maybe instead of not having holidays, we should just stop having nations?
posted by Avenger at 7:22 PM on November 22, 2009 [9 favorites]


Back in the UK one of our best festivals is all about burning a catholic dude in effigy, so don't feel too bad.

Also avoid Harvest Festival on Summer Isle.
posted by Artw at 7:26 PM on November 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


I grew up with all sorts of baggage about TGiving. Now my extended adult family celebrates it but more often than not we call it Thanksgrieving.
posted by kalessin at 7:27 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I went to a Thanksgiving-themed event tonight, and someone read a speech about the history of Thanksgiving. The first sentence was "Thanksgiving is a holiday unique to the United States" and the rest was equally accurate.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 7:27 PM on November 22, 2009


You can disagree, of course, but don't think I'm all live-and-let-live about it--if you think your actions don't exist in a larger world of context and responsibility and consequence, I think you're wrong.

i always thought it was a good action to be grateful for what one has
posted by pyramid termite at 7:28 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Back in the UK one of our best festivals is all about burning a catholic dude in effigy, so don't feel too bad.

Yeah but - it brought the bees back.

Think about it.
posted by The Whelk at 7:29 PM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


So, let's have it. If you were on death row in a prison where you get only apple pie and pumpkin pie for food, and you're told you can have a dessert pie with anything in season in the Northeast, what would you tell the warden to put in your final pie?

I'm not a Northeasterner, so I'm not sure what's in season. Out here in the Northwest there's not a lot in-season right now, so we usually lean on frozen berries and imported nuts.

But last year we made a chocolate pecan pie. And I have to say that was truly a revelation. It's probably the same as a fudge pecan pie, or maybe it's not -- it was a cross between a pecan pie and a chocolate bar.

One other random option -- a vinegar pie. It's sorta like shoofly pie. Surprisingly good.
posted by dw at 7:32 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I press these points with no sense of moral superiority. (from the 1st link)

I'm gonna file that under "O" for "O RLY?"
posted by selfmedicating at 7:33 PM on November 22, 2009


As a part Native American... meh. Columbus Day is where the anger is. Thanksgiving is just Festivus with a lot more food.
posted by dw at 7:33 PM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Man, I can't wait for world sauntering day.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 7:37 PM on November 22, 2009


From the desperate and aggressive scrambling for turkey and other consumable items I saw in the Publix I was at tonight, I don't think anyone was grateful for or happy about Thanksgiving this year, context or not.

Christmas music is already playing everywhere, so Thanksgiving is almost an afterthought -- at least in public spaces.

This is why I hate the holiday season. Bah humbug and to all a merry manic Jim Carrey.
posted by blucevalo at 7:40 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Considering the family-fueled horror that is Thanksgiving, I think it is the perfect commemoration of that special day so long ago when we were happy to invite our new friends over for a meal and later decided to kill them and take everything they had.
posted by BeReasonable at 7:45 PM on November 22, 2009 [9 favorites]


Squanto's life story is pretty interesting. He was a big value to the Pilgrims cause he *spoke English*. Some spanish too. The New World was pretty old by 1621.

I interviewed one of the Wampanog interpreters once at Plimouth Plantation. He portrayed Squanto in a re-enactment they'd done for a History Channel flick. Interesting guy.

The Plantation runs its Pilgrim set-up in that immersive style, with interpreters in historical dress, who pretend not to know anything about the modern world. In the Wampanog half the interpreters dressed in period clothes, but were free to speak as modern people, in order to be able to deal with questions about the whole history of the tribe, etc. However, when I was there the two groups were just beginning to stage some interactions between them --- one of the Pilgrims interpreters told me how vexing it was when the Wampanogs would sneak over to her homestead and pretend to nick her chickens, and then when she chased after them pretended not to speak English (as, in 1623, they almost certainly wouldn't have). She was saying how vexing it was to be half-fake half-real yelling at people, knowing they understand you but who are pretending they don't. She liked the challenge of it, but after the evening there part of me wanted to be able to hang with them for a week...it's a weird, weird job and there were still some underlying tensions there, I'd say. But you wouldn't believe some of the questions the Wampanog guy was telling me they get asked....
posted by Diablevert at 7:47 PM on November 22, 2009


But if we were ugly to those Connecticut Indians, they have had the last laugh. They now own two of the biggest money-earning casinos in the world.

Chairman Mao had about as much claim to being Pequot as the people who are legally in the tribe. Have you read any news stories about them? It's pretty much "At a press conference late yesterday, Chief Hyman Silverstein and treasurer Sigrid Lindquist of the Mashantucket Pequot urged southern New Englanders to come feed their Social Security checks into the slots..."
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:49 PM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I haven't celebrated Thanksgiving since I was 12 and found out about the National Day of Mourning. I'm 31 now and I still don't celebrate it, and while for me, this is just a relatively minor choice that I've made, other people (and I count my family amongst these people) have always had major issues with the fact that I'd prefer to not take part. I've never understood how offended some people seem to get at the fact that I don't celebrate Thanksgiving (I won't even mention how people try to convince me that I should celebrate Christmas despite having been raised Muslim).

Not celebrating Thanksgiving is much easier considering that I find most traditional Thanksgiving food to be pretty gross. Including all manner of pie.
posted by eunoia at 7:52 PM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I recently gave a lesson on Thanksgiving to my Korean 5th graders. One of the more advanced kids piped and said, "Scott Teacher, where did Squanto learn to speak English?". Which led to my trying to explain the long history of slavery to a bunch of 5th graders in a language they didn't totally understand. Interestingly, this past Sunday our Korean pastor explained to the congregation that "Thanksgiving is a celebration of how Pilgrims defeated the vicious Indians". So, maybe?
posted by GilloD at 7:56 PM on November 22, 2009


I think the pie you're looking for is Key Lime. It is a totally, completely different flavor from the other pies you'll be bringing, and it's so good it tastes like it must be made of angels. Sweet, pureed, custardized angels.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:58 PM on November 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


mccarty.tim: my grandmother Ila used to make a butterscotch pie with meringue topping that was the best thing I have ever eaten. Unfortunately, she has long since passed away and took her secret recipe with her (my mom says she figured it out, but it's really not the same) so while that may not be much help, I would still recommend a butterscotch pie. Because they're pretty dang good, even if they're not my grandmother's.
posted by yhbc at 8:13 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, you Americans and your laughably late Thanksgiving. I couldn't figure out why things were so slow on teh internets.

Chairman Mao had about as much claim to being Pequot as the people who are legally in the tribe.

Meh, the 1/16 rule does push things, but it's not any stupider than the Irish citizenship thing or the Law of Return.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:19 PM on November 22, 2009


I always liked Jon Carroll's old column about Thanksgiving, but he has a newer one now. Both good. Neither addresses historical reality. Sure, I have a problem with that, too.

However, this is also a time when people donate heavily to the poor and hungry. Systemic problems may not be solved in a day, but the sentiment must count for something.
posted by kozad at 8:20 PM on November 22, 2009


I'm gonna go down to my childhood home tomorrow and spend the week with my dad and the dog. It'll be our first Thanksgiving without my mom around, so the meal will be a bit simpler, and I guess we'll both see her empty chair and wish she was still around to share the holiday with us. I haven't been a slouch in learning about the uglier parts of my country's history, and if somebody else wants to make a meal of it, they can protest all they want, I can understand why. The tall tales of colonists and their buckled hats and Indian friends were never the point in my family, anyway. I'm lucky to have grown up with a loving family, and that's really what it's all about, on Thanksgiving we've always counted our blessings. This year we'll both be missing the greatest blessing my family ever had. But we'll still have Thanksgiving together -- my dad, the dog, and me -- and we'll still have it in the home my parents made for us.

I think everybody's got a valid reason for celebrating or denigrating the holiday as they see fit. I'm not going to tell anyone how they should feel about something as personal or political or both as Thanksgiving can be. It's important to me -- like I said, it's long been my favorite holiday -- and if it angers many people to think of what my ancestors may have done as individuals to take my country from the people who once shared it with us, they should know that it angers me, too.

I don't get together with my family for political reasons, or to whitewash history, or to celebrate genocide; if you think, by whatever stretch, that I do, you're wrong. For me, Thanksgiving is just about loving the ones who love me. Like I said, I'm lucky.
posted by breezeway at 8:23 PM on November 22, 2009 [19 favorites]


It might have been remembered for another reason if the Sons of Liberty had bottles of decent Greek fire.
posted by tellurian at 8:26 PM on November 22, 2009


You know, if anything, Tday should celebrate our modern understanding of medical issues. The early european settlers on this continent were held in some disdain by the natives becaue their health was for crap.

There was a lot of back and forth between settlers and natives previous to the late 1600's that was mostly peaceable. But what no one at the time knew is that settlers were infecting natives with unknown diseases that would spread like wildfire and wipe out entire civilizations in a single generation. A big reason that settlers were able to dominate militarily so handily in the east was that by the time it came to that, most of the natives were dead or in culture shock because their culture was dying right before their eyes.

My theory is on Thanksgiving, we should eat, donate to native american causes, then shoot people who don't want to vaccinate their children.
posted by lumpenprole at 8:33 PM on November 22, 2009 [12 favorites]


Thanksgiving data audio
posted by Sailormom at 8:39 PM on November 22, 2009


what would you tell the warden to put in your final pie?

Pot. It would be a pot pie.

I mean marijuana.

I would go with razzleberry, but I don't think razzleberries are in season. Do they make pomegranate pie? Did I really spell "pomegranate" correctly on the first try?
posted by dirigibleman at 8:39 PM on November 22, 2009


I can't think of anyone I've known who paid any lip service to the origins of Thanksgiving. We all learned the stories about the pilgrims. but it was the idea of a ritualistic get- together of family and friends that was the reason to spend hours and energy making turkey and dressing and yams, and pumpkin pie to die for. We don't cook that stuff any other time of the year. Sometimes someone would want to say grace, because that was part of the ritual they cherished, and the rest of us would bow our heads for the minute or two that took, but there was no talk of Pilgrims or Indians, but only of good memories and the pleasures of being together. We may have coopted the holiday, but it was important in our lives.

I see a lot of anger in some young people now toward that sort of tradition, and I'm not sure why it's there.

On preview, what breezeway said
posted by path at 8:45 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man, I can't wait for world sauntering day.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 9:37 PM on November 22 [+] [!]


Ironically, this post gave me one more thing to be thankful for.

what's the, um... object of the game? DON'T COMMIT SUICIDE
posted by nanojath at 8:54 PM on November 22, 2009


You can disagree, of course, but don't think I'm all live-and-let-live about it--if you think your actions don't exist in a larger world of context and responsibility and consequence, I think you're wrong.

That's true, but more important than making a political point at a family gathering where nobody is doing anything wrong but are following family obligations is keeping harmony within the family. This is not a battle I feel is worth fighting for what it would cost me, which is a day for all of us to spend together and be grateful for what we have, nothing to do with the historical mythology. I can't effectively make a good point about Thanksgiving without alienating my family, and I haven't been a teenager for many years, so some things aren't even a question anymore.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:27 PM on November 22, 2009


Peanut Butter Pie. Tell the warden you want Peanut Butter Pie. It's always in season!
posted by MultiFaceted at 9:36 PM on November 22, 2009


Thanksgiving in my family was all about being thankful for what we had, namely a chance for our family to come together. I lived with my uncle, aunt and cousin, and on Thanksgiving, my father and sister would come up, along with my other uncle and his wife and three kids. Some family friends would come along, and we'd have to rent tables to fit the fifteen or so people who would be there. It was a family weekend, complete with the fighting and bickering, but most importantly, there was the way my family got over fighting, which was to talk about family history, usually by recounting famous fights of the past (the time, when my uncle told me to get out of his house, when I went and waited in my mother's car, or the time when my grandmother, whom I never met, threw a typewriter at my uncle, narrowly missing him, and putting a whole in the wall).

I've lived overseas for ten years, now, and due to the schedule of life in Japan, Thanksgiving is a holiday I'll never be able to spend with my family back home. My uncle passed away a couple years ago, robbing us of the masterful host of our get togethers, and I lost my father this year. Back home, my cousin is going to have thanksgiving with my surviving uncle and his family, my aunt is going to a friend's house, and my sister is having people over to her apartment. We've lost the central place for our family to gather, and it makes me immeasurably sad.

That's why I'll be riding my shopping bicycle to Costco to buy the fixings. I'll thaw the turkey, then dismember it, since I don't have an oven big enough. I'll race home from work on Friday, because Thursday just won't work, and I'll bake the breasts, and braise the thighs and legs. I'll put together a Thanksgiving dinner for my wife and our friends here in Japan, because this is the closest I'll get to having a place of my own for Thanksgiving, a place where I can pick up where my uncle left off. I can host thanksgiving, and be thankful that people I love can gather at my house, and I can provide a meal they'll remember, and an evening we can cherish.

That's thanksgiving to me. I'm not ignorant of the politics, but it was never about that with my family. It was about a four day weekend where we could all be together, for as long as that lasted.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:58 PM on November 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


Here are the random thoughts filtering through my head right now.

I want to spit on ever $20 vill I see, so much is my hatred for Andrew Jackson and his genocidal policies towards all Native Americans and, particularly, the Cherokee who were so determined to live peacefully and fruitfully with the newcomer Europeans.

On a number of Thanksgivings, I have taken girlfriends back home to Oklahoma to meet my boisterous family, and because there's not a lot to do in Bartlesville, I've taken them out to WooLaRoc, the Native American museum (founded by Wade Phillips, and named by his mistress for, literally, "Woods. Lakes. Rocks." Part of the collection there is about all of the literature that came from New Ocheta, the capital city of the Georgia Cherokee Nation, which built a country, capitol, schools, created it's own written language and established a free press wthin ten years before being eradicated by the Trail of Tears.

Almost everyone I knew in Oklahoma was part Native American, and I never heard a single word against Thanksgiving.

The last 6 or 7 years or so, I've generally spent Thanksgiving at my sister's family's house in Connecticut. I can confirm that Thankgiving in New England is better than anywhere else, no matter what the food is.

Speaking of food - fuck tradition for this moment. If you can get your hands on a turkey fryer, do it that way. You'll be so much happier.

A few years ago, my sister invited some new friends of there's over for Thanksgiving dinner. They'd just moved over from South Africa, and had no real conception of the holiday. The next year, they returned the favor by having us over. There's really nothing like having that done by people who are new to the whole idea and are trying to start their own family traditions. Not all the details were what you'd think - the potatoes were roasted with rosemary instead of mashed, for instance - but it was beautiful and sweet, and a very happy memory.

My girlfriend was born in China, and moved over when she was four. She's always had more of an affinity for America than her parents have. For instance, one of her relatives gave her a teddy bear just before she left the East. She wanted, as a toddler, to give it an American name. She named it "Bear." It still occupies a central place between her pillows as her most treasured piece of her past.

Last Thanksgiving, my folks were up in Connecticut with us, and continued an old, if a little cheesy tradition, of asking everyone around the table to say what they were thankful for. I can't remember what we all said (all of us were stressed out, but found silver linings) except for my younger nephew, who was trying to impress me, and said he was thankful for me being there (awww) and his older brother, all of five, who screamed that he was thankful for nothing. I was honestly offended, even though I knew he was just being five and meant nothing really by it. He's six now, and has matured a lot in that year, and so I'm less concerned about this year. Plus he's got a new baby sister to look after.

Next weekend my girlfriend and I are going up to Connecticut. She's excited, because for all her 20+ years in the U.S., she's never had a real Thanksgiving dinner. She's been furiously knitting this weekend, finishing up her latest project - a homemade teddy bear to give to my infant niece.

I care about the history, but I'm not about to give up my memories or one of the few occasions I have to get together with my family and others to create new ones.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:00 PM on November 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


The holiday that Lincoln gave us has been saddled with a wonderful mythology.

More mythology: the Pilgrims first landed in Plymouth. Not. It was Provincetown.

On this rock, a myth was built
"This Thursday, families across America will join in a feast to celebrate the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock and took their first steps in what would become our nation. It is all true -- except the first-steps-in-the- New-World part."
Previous related MeFi FPP -- Pilgrims' Progress.
posted by ericb at 10:15 PM on November 22, 2009


The creation of Black Friday has forever tarnished it for me. Wooo, I stuffed myself, but I can't just sleep it off tomorrow - I have to go and endure ravenous hordes of bargain hunters (as an employee). Bleah.
posted by deusdiabolus at 10:30 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also: Sorry, guys, you're not noble just because you lost.

Just... wow.

I'm trying to imagine the MeFi reaction if some of the sentiments in here were uttered about Black Americans and slavery.

Must bookmark this thread for next time the ugly liberal American contingent start mouthing off about how much more evolved Americans are on issues of race than everyone else.
posted by rodgerd at 11:19 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's my first ever American Thanksgiving this year. So far I have learned that it's a day where my in laws begrudgingly drive down the state to visit us, even though it's "boring", my husband cooks a giant turkey in our tiny oven and I feel extra-awkward because this is another one of those lessons about how my people really shouldn't have left that tiny island to the east of the Americas.

Still. The good part about living in the US is that I can comfort myself with yams and pumpkin pie, and it's practically illegal to not indulge myself. Food makes everything better.
posted by saturnine at 11:34 PM on November 22, 2009


I've taken them out to WooLaRoc, the Native American museum (founded by Wade Phillips, and named by his mistress for, literally, "Woods. Lakes. Rocks."

Actually, no. Woolaroc was the ranch of Frank Phillips (as in Phillips 66) that became a museum in later years. Waite Phillips was his younger brother; he had no part of Woolaroc but owned (and gave away) Philbrook, the Philtower, and Philmont.

(Says the person who went to Waite Phillips Elementary School and had to learn all the Phillips bio info to pass 4th grade.)
posted by dw at 11:39 PM on November 22, 2009


I remember the Thanksgiving Day the year after my father died. I was at my aunt's (his sister's) house. We had a grace that involved some sort of remembrance. My sister was crying. My aunt was crying. My cousin was crying. Me? I was wondering what jackass thought that leaving the volume up on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom during the mining cart scene was a good idea (for the record, so was my other cousin).

Sorry, Dad. I love you, and I miss you, but that shit was distracting; and I know you would have understood.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:00 AM on November 23, 2009


I am celebrating this Thanksgiving with Native Americans, as I tend to do. Yeah, it's complicated. But the mythology the holiday celebrates is, in fact, the core cultural value of many indigenous peoples, and certainly the tribe with whom I am currently residing: reciprocity. Thanksgiving makes perfect sense as a holiday from a Native perspective, even if its backstory is cover for genocide.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:45 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also: Sorry, guys, you're not noble just because you lost.

F.U.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:47 AM on November 23, 2009


I'm holding Thanksgiving in the Sahara this year, and when I'm prompted for an explanation, I tell them it's a festival about eating a Turkey. And Halloween is about dressing up in costumes, Christmas is about presents.

The 28th of November is Tabaski, and though most everyone knows the story of Ibrahim, it's mostly about killing a sheep and wearing new clothes.
posted by iamck at 2:17 AM on November 23, 2009


This year I'm on Indian side in the annual team Halo game. Once me and Runs-With-Plasma-Grenade head up that cliff and snag the sniper rifles, the Pilgrims won't know what hit'em.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:15 AM on November 23, 2009


You get 'em, Dances-With-Headshot.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:23 AM on November 23, 2009


I'm trying to imagine the MeFi reaction if some of the sentiments in here were uttered about Black Americans and slavery.

What! Why, the negroes should be thanking us for delivering them from the savage state in which they were held captive!

How's that song go again?

Take up the MeFi's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go, troll users to anger,
To serve your Haughey's need;


Disclaimer: NOT REALLY.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:26 AM on November 23, 2009


I'm trying to imagine the MeFi reaction if some of the sentiments in here were uttered about Black Americans and slavery.

We managed to pass off a socialist foreigner as one of your own, we currently head up the Executive and Judicial branches of government and we're head of the space program too, meaning we all up in yours space station an shit. So go ahead and mouth off if it makes you feel good, we think it's good that ya'll feel a little in charge of your fate, keeps you nice and docile.

Also, we're quite pleased that we beat out the Native Americans as the standard for unfair treatment in America. That's been one of our goals since '89.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:17 AM on November 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've always been surprised that Europe doesn't do Thanksgiving more, as a celebration of ridding the continent of those future Americans and Canadians.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:56 AM on November 23, 2009


I am the Scrooge of Thanksgiving. Don't get me wrong, I'll still be driving 3 hrs. to partake in the Apple v. Pumpkin pie debate and eating myself into a trytophan (or as it's known in my family "tryptomorphine") induced coma, but I hate the holiday and have been perfectly happy living in in countries where it doesn't exist, unlike most Americans I've known who start looking for turkeys in Europe and bemoan the lack of cranberry sauce come the last week in November.

I've had a couple of wicked awful Thanksgivings in my life (that time I crashed the car my first time driving, that time I ended up in the hospital for 24 hr. seizure monitoring...), but I've really hated the holiday since childhood.

My reasoning, at age 8, which I still cling to, is as follows: So. The pilgrims. And the Indians. Were good pals and ate this big dinner together in celebration of their awesome times together. And the Pilgrims - they were getting a lot of food and help from the Indians because they were all new here and the Indians were around for like, ever, before they got here. So...

WHY ARE WE NOT HANGING OUT WITH INDIANS? WHY ARE THERE ONLY PILGRIMS LEFT? YOU CAN NOT CONVINCE ME THAT THE INDIANS "DIED OFF" OR MOVED TO MARS BECAUSE HI, THEY WERE HERE FIRST. FOR LIKE, MILENNIA.

If an eight year old can comprehend that this is total garbage, I'm totally baffled by the number of adults who perpetuate this bullshit.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:08 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, right. The US hasn't had their Jour de l'Action de grâce yet.

These celebrations have a long history, and not all of it is wrapped up in genocide (inasmuch as anything us descendants of Europeans in North America can do that isn't connected with genocide) and go back a long way before either Canada or the US was a country.

So, I say, enjoy our pie and try to make sure you welcome everyone into your Order of Good Cheer, regardless of where they come from, or what their grand-dada may have done to yours.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:10 AM on November 23, 2009


If an eight year old can comprehend that this is total garbage, I'm totally baffled by the number of adults who perpetuate this bullshit.

I just enjoy any opportunity I'm given to eat myself sick, all politics aside. I like Xmas too for the same reason. Skip the Jesus, and pass me more of those butter cookies dipped in gravy, please!
posted by Pollomacho at 6:39 AM on November 23, 2009


I just enjoy any opportunity I'm given to eat myself sick, all politics aside.

Oh, me too. Don't get me wrong. I love eating. I suppose half of my problem with Thanksgiving is that I'm not thrilled by turkey. Thankfully though, mashed potatoes with gravy are there as supplements and HEY! IT'S THURSDAY! PASS THE POTATOES! I can totally get behind eating myself stupid because it's Thursday.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:45 AM on November 23, 2009


I suppose half of my problem with Thanksgiving is that I'm not thrilled by turkey.

You should find some excuse to be south of the Mason-Dixon for Thanksgiving sometime then. Not only do you get a double dose of the guilt (WE kicked out the red savages and then imported africans to do all the work, yeah boy!) but you also get to eat turkey AND ham for the holidays.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:57 AM on November 23, 2009


If there's anything I hate more than turkey, it's ham. Good Lord how I hate ham. HATES IT. And eggs. Green Eggs and Ham is my idea of what they serve IN HELL.

What I need is a place that serves fried chicken. Or meatballs.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:02 AM on November 23, 2009


It's all well and good to be upset by this but we have to remember that virtually all national holidays (around the entire world) are celebrations of somebody else's genocide.

Actually, that's not true of the Jews. Virtually all of our holidays -- with the exception of the the High Holidays -- are celebrations of our own genocides. This is actually true. If you go through the major Jewish holidays (Hanukkah, Passover, etc.) the overwhelming theme, as one of my friends puts it, is "Hah! A FEW of us got away!"

Don't get me started about Purim.
posted by The Bellman at 7:32 AM on November 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


mccarty.tim, I will give you the recipe for the pie you should make. You've met me, so you may realize that I do not lie about food. The last time I made this pie, there was a wave of ecstatic moaning that made even me blush.

This pear-sour cherry pie, but add about a cup's worth of chopped candied ginger. Bonus points for using this crust recipe.
posted by desuetude at 7:36 AM on November 23, 2009


I'm as regretful as any leftist-American that our alleged melting pot was built on land acquired through genocide, but this doesn't have much bearing on coming together with my family (blood and chosen) to celebrate remembering to be thankful for what we've got.

I don't think that the "meanings" of holidays are so utterly literal that you're doing it wrong if you don't celebrate the Official Mythology In Whole, No Substitutions Allowed. I'm agnostic, but I celebrate Christmas (as something like Thanksgiving Part Deux plus yay, the days are getting longer). I'm pretty damn anti-war, but don't have any conflict over honoring veterans for their service on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
posted by desuetude at 7:50 AM on November 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


When confronted with this, most people in the United States (outside of indigenous communities) ignore the history or attack those who make the argument. This is intellectually dishonest, politically irresponsible, and morally bankrupt.

Hmm. Really? You make unreasonable demands that can only be motivated by curmudgeonly self-righteousness and it's intellectually dishonest to call you out on it?

It seems far more intellectually dishonest to insist that the celebrants of a feast are complicit in the crimes committed by the earliest celebrants. That's an extraordinarily tenuous thread.

Maybe we should also have a thread beating up on Jewish kids at Passover because they didn't do anything to help us first-born Gentiles out four thousand years ago. How's that sound?
posted by jock@law at 7:54 AM on November 23, 2009


OK, look, we need to give up on this lovey-dovey bullshit that we teach young kids - all this "Colombus was a great man who told all those backwards scientists who thought the earth was flat to SHOVE IT! And then discovered America and brought prosperity to the whole region! And then Pilgrims landed at Plymouth rock and would have starved to death except for the noble savages who brought them corn and meat! And that's why we celebrate thanksgiving!"

The problem isn't with an annual harvest festival, the problem is that we actively lie to children for some unfathomable reason, and then expect them to forget all that a few years later and learn the "real" American history. So we have expose after expose, but it's really hard to fight lessons learned when our brains were still amazingly plastic. Keep Thanksgiving but get rid of the stupid, useless mythology.
posted by muddgirl at 7:56 AM on November 23, 2009 [8 favorites]


(Ask me how I feel about the myth that Jesus was born on Christmas day, although I imagine I will be denounced as religiously intolerant for that one)
posted by muddgirl at 7:58 AM on November 23, 2009


Yes, because self-loathing and overwhelming guilt for what others did can't start at an early enough age.
posted by rocket88 at 8:11 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey muddgirl, how do you feel about the myth that Jesus was just a standin for his sister Martha? She was the actual savior, but they quickly realized no one would accept a woman as savior, so they had Jesus appear to do the miracles while Martha stood in the crowd and did the actual magic.

When it came time to being nailed to the cross, Martha was all "Hey, you've gone this far, why stop now?" Jesus is still pretty pissed out that, which always makes Thanksgiving dinner tense.

Martha: "Mmm, this stuffing is great, Mom!"

Mary: "Thank you dear! It really helps you're able to transmute all sorts materials, not just water and wine, really helps to make the stuffing fluffier. Mmm, you really are something else."

Jesus: Um, hello?

Martha (muttering): Here we go again...

Jesus: What was that?!

Mary: Jesus, be nice to your sister!

Jesus: Fine. (pauses) Can someone pass the green beans and the buck?

Martha: For Christ's sake, let it go!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:12 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, yes, this "overwhelming guilt" that anyone has if they don't toe the "white people are awesome, full stop" party line.

W.T.F.
posted by muddgirl at 8:16 AM on November 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


all this "Colombus was a great man who told all those backwards scientists who thought the earth was flat to SHOVE IT!

Haven't you got that backwards? Columbus trusted in math and science to lead him across the ocean rather than giving in to mythology and superstition.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:32 AM on November 23, 2009


In defense of the practice, if not the origins:

Thanksgiving has food, family and football, and two days off in a row. Thanksgiving does not have wall-to-wall seasonal music, shopping lists, greeting cards, or nonstop ads for Chia Pets, jewelry, and Lexuses with bows. It does have its infallibility of tradition (mainly in the menu), but even that reach is less pervasive (e.g. we're not chopping down trees and dragging them into the house). In many ways, it's a better holiday than Christmas.

After the dinner prayer, we go around the table and have everyone talk about what they're thankful for. I like that. At least for us, it's one of the more thoughtful holidays.
posted by kurumi at 8:46 AM on November 23, 2009


As a part Native American, could I give you all some advice?

Stop it.

Liberal breast-beating and screaming genocide won't do jack to bring the nations back from the dead, nor does it do jack to help Native Americans who live on the rez or in the cities or even right around the corner from you.

You know what would help? Giving a damn about Native issues the other 364 days a year. Pressuring Congress to keep the BIA and IHS well-funded. Supporting public and private organizations who are partnering with tribes to bring improved educational and economic opportunities to the Native population.

And you know what else? Be thankful you have a family, a job, a warm dry place to sleep, a decent set of shoes, food on the table. Because this is the point of this long history of harvest festivals and feasts. We gather and eat because the long winter is coming, because our families are here, because many good things have happened this year despite the bad. And, hopefully, we remind ourselves that there are those less fortunate and that we need to provide for them.

So shut up and eat your turkey. And the rest of the year, give a damn about the plight of Natives instead of paying them lip service one day a year. That goes for all the less fortunate around the world, too.
posted by dw at 9:17 AM on November 23, 2009 [29 favorites]


Liberal breast-beating and screaming genocide won't do jack to bring the nations back from the dead, nor does it do jack to help Native Americans who live on the rez or in the cities or even right around the corner from you.

You know what would help? Giving a damn about Native issues the other 364 days a year. Pressuring Congress to keep the BIA and IHS well-funded. Supporting public and private organizations who are partnering with tribes to bring improved educational and economic opportunities to the Native population.


It's not mutually exclusive. You can be pissed at the mythology of Thanksgiving AND truly give a damn. And you can be pissed at the effed up story telling and eat turkey anyway - in your home, for which you are thankful! All of these things are possible!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:26 AM on November 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


And yeah, we certainly prefer to gloss over 99% of the history and focus on the 1% percent where white settlers and native peoples actually got along.

Other equally shocking U.S. Holiday policies:

Christmas will celebrate the storied birth of and reverence for a Prince of Peace who taught everyone to love their enemies and to treat their neighbors as themselves. Less pleasant teachings will be glossed over, and the part of the story where we ganged up and murdered him for worrying the authorities is not traditionally commemorated with tinsel and presents.

New Years' Eve will be centered around preserving good memories of the past and planning to improve one's self during the upcoming year. There will be no drinking "to entropy", and dwelling too long on now-immutable mistakes made during the previous year is discouraged.

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday is intended to celebrate the values of hope, human dignity, and equality for all, not assassination or adultery allegations.

Washington's birthday is a federal holiday thanks to his historic contributions which led to the creation of new independent nations and the promotion of the principle of self-determination, not thanks to his horrible failings which denied people their rights of self-determination. See also: Independence Day, Columbus Day.

Memorial Day and Veteran's Day are intended to honor the willingness of individual soldiers to give their lives to protect their loved ones and to preserve a cause greater than themselves. Holiday events should not include examining those causes in hindsight. If you encounter fellow celebrants who still think that the Confederacy was fighting against oppression, or that the Union was fighting against slavery, or that the War to End War was a brilliant idea, please wait until the following week before correcting them.

Labor day is a fun opportunity to relax with the family. Those conservatives out picnicking are not actually required to express solidarity with labor unions, and neither they nor any other political sects are required to pass a quiz on the Pullman Strike, Haymarket Affair, etc.
posted by roystgnr at 10:09 AM on November 23, 2009


and the part of the story where we ganged up and murdered him for worrying the authorities is not traditionally commemorated with tinsel and presents.

Of course not, silly. We wait until the time around the Vernal Equinox and celebrate his death with symbols of fertility, occluded ova, and microwavable marshmallows.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:12 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Labor day is a fun opportunity to relax with the family. Those conservatives out picnicking are not actually required to express solidarity with labor unions, and neither they nor any other political sects are required to pass a quiz on the Pullman Strike, Haymarket Affair, etc.

Labor Day is the BEST HOLIDAY because my birthday is always on/around Labor Day weekend. THREE DAY BBQ BIRTHDAY BONANZA.

I maintain that if the US were to move Labor Day to May 1st like the rest of the civilized world, I would demand that my birthday be officially recognized as a national holiday to not throw off my mojo.

(Weirdly, I got teased for this in school. "Is it called labor day because your mom went into labor? HAHA." The things that eight year olds will come up with to somehow taunt you.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:13 AM on November 23, 2009


> Haven't you got that backwards? Columbus trusted in math and science to lead him across the ocean rather than giving in to mythology and superstition.

That is so not what happened:

From Wikipedia:
Washington Irving's 1828 biography of Columbus popularized the idea that Columbus had difficulty obtaining support for his plan because Europeans thought the Earth was flat. In fact, the primitive maritime navigation of the time relied on the stars and the curvature of the spherical Earth. The knowledge that the Earth was spherical was widespread, and the means of calculating its diameter using an astrolabe was known to both scholars and navigators. A spherical Earth had been the general opinion of Ancient Greek science, and this view continued through the Middle Ages (for example, Bede mentions it in The Reckoning of Time). In fact Eratosthenes had measured the diameter of the Earth with good precision in the second century BC. Where Columbus did differ from the generally accepted view of his time is his (incorrect) arguments that assumed a significantly smaller diameter for the Earth, claiming that Asia could be easily reached by sailing west across the Atlantic. Most scholars accepted Ptolemy's correct assessment that the terrestrial landmass (for Europeans of the time, comprising Eurasia and Africa) occupied 180 degrees of the terrestrial sphere, and dismissed Columbus's claim that the Earth was much smaller, and that Asia was only a few thousand nautical miles to the west of Europe. Columbus's error was put down to his lack of experience in navigation at sea.
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:14 AM on November 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


all this "Colombus was a great man who told all those backwards scientists who thought the earth was flat to SHOVE IT!

Haven't you got that backwards? Columbus trusted in math and science to lead him across the ocean rather than giving in to mythology and superstition.


In myth or in fact? Everybody educated already knew the earth was round, and in fact also knew how big the earth was. Calculated by Eratosthenes around 200 BC. That's how everybody knew it was foolhardy to sail west to Asia. It was way too far. Columbus used an inaccurately small estimate of the earth's circumference and was just damn lucky there was a whole friggin' continent between Europe and Asia.
posted by kmz at 10:20 AM on November 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I assume Pollomacho was criticizing my presentation of the crappy myth that we're taught in 5th grade (or whenever), NOT trying to argue that Colombus was actually, you know, a competent mathematician and sailor.
posted by muddgirl at 10:22 AM on November 23, 2009


Less pleasant teachings will be glossed over, and the part of the story where we ganged up and murdered him for worrying the authorities is not traditionally commemorated with tinsel and presents

It's commemorated by fasting for 40 days. It's commemorated by a one-billion-member organization grinding to a virtual standstill for a day; Good Friday is the only day of the year Mass is not said. I fail to see how that's glossing over anything.
posted by jock@law at 10:45 AM on November 23, 2009


Kids Reenact The First Thanksgiving With Smallpox Blankets And Whiskey [video | 02:02].
posted by ericb at 11:01 AM on November 23, 2009


> I assume Pollomacho was criticizing my presentation of the crappy myth that we're taught in 5th grade (or whenever), NOT trying to argue that Colombus was actually, you know, a competent mathematician and sailor.

I didn't read that way to me, but if I interpreted him wrong, I apologize.

On topic: Since for me Xmas is a completely secular holiday, (the first time I met someone who told me their xmas plans was to go church, I was like "Why would you go to church on Christmas? Shouldn't you spending it with your family? Oh, right, that whole Jesus thing. My bad.") I understand viewing Thanksgiving as Dead Indian Day, but I believe I can celebrate Thanksgiving as Family, Turkey and Pie Day.

I have always wondered way Canada has Thanksgiving Day. Did they copy it from us or did it organically develop?
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:33 AM on November 23, 2009


In my family, like what a lot of others here are describing, Thanksgiving isn't a historical or political holiday. It's just that day of the year when we all get together and eat that meal and tell the same stories and be grateful for one another. It's a family holiday that only happens to be pre-printed on the calendar.

I'd feel bad about that, I guess, if it weren't for the fact that my family is too reserved -- too Dutch, actually -- to go out of their way to make that happen at other times. We need to have it on the calendar. And we honor that obligation without any thoughts of pilgrims or natives or smallpox or genocide.

I guess we have blinders on, but at least we enjoy each others' company, without reservation, for that one day out of the year.

> (Says the person who went to Waite Phillips Elementary School and had to learn all the Phillips bio info to pass 4th grade.)

I'm really glad you cleared up the distinction between Wade Phillips and Waite Phillips, dw. Having grown up near Dallas, I've always known that the Cowboys are an integral part of Thanksgiving, but for a minute there Navelgazer had me convinced that the reason was partly because the current coach and his mistress were responsible for a Native American museum somewhere in Oklahoma, and that was truly baffling.

posted by mudpuppie at 11:41 AM on November 23, 2009


I have always wondered way Canada has Thanksgiving Day. Did they copy it from us or did it organically develop?
posted by nooneyouknow at 2:33 PM on November 23 [+] [!]


Canadians wonder that, too. I think that the name and the choice of foods (turkey, pumpkin pie) are very influenced by the American tradition, but the timing coincides with the British Harvest Home festival (as well as the actual Canadian harvest - we wouldn't have any vegetables left if we waited until November). Considering that the two biggest immigrant groups to Canada have always been Americans and Brits, a blend of the two would make sense.
posted by jb at 12:06 PM on November 23, 2009


What I was taught in elementary school in the early 90's was that Coloumbus was a smart man who thought the Earth was round and that he could just quickly jump from Europe to Asia to the West, but that it wasn't the scientists who stood up against him, but his own crew.

That seems doubly specious to me, as I've heard sailors were the most likely to understand the earth was round because they needed to account for the curvature in navigation, they could see ships go over the horizon, and they needed to use an astrolabe. Further, this was likely the truth for any culture that had any type of basic sailing (even fishing vessels), so it's most likely that the Native Americans had a hunch the Earth was around, too.

Being a kid, I didn't think to question why few people wanted to invest in Columbus, but I'm glad they didn't go for the simplistic view we usually get, where Columbus is the one man smart enough to figure out the Earth is round. The fact is that he was willful and ignorant of the science that said the Earth was so large he'd be making a very slow trip to Asia. This caused him to find two new continents.

I'm not sure what the moral is there. I guess the best message I can find is "Even if you're wrong and mistaken, go for it! Others will learn from your mistakes, as you're trying something they're afraid to do for either expense or their personal safety."
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:31 PM on November 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


What DW said resonates for me.

I think it's important to remember the whole history of this holiday, because I like truthiness and in hopes that we won't repeat the egregious errors of our past.

But Thanksgiving is also generally good for one's own and dear ones' mental health if taken as an opportunity to feel some gratitude for our personal blessings and our national abundance.

"Specifically, there appears to be a significant, consistent, and sizeable effect of gratitude on positive affect. This effect was confirmed in both experimental and correlational studies. It was found in a diverse set of populations including adults on the internet, college students, and in clinical populations. Given these findings, gratitude can be still be thought of as a moral emotion which regulates our behavior in order to promote social ties. But we should not discount the significant self-serving benefits of being thankful."
posted by bearwife at 1:53 PM on November 23, 2009


Columbus was all "I've discovered India!" and shit.
posted by Artw at 2:10 PM on November 23, 2009


All like, "Naw, man, this is India for reals. Ain't no room for a new continent up in this ocean!"
posted by muddgirl at 2:14 PM on November 23, 2009


"This here is West India. Wait, hows that make sense?"
posted by Artw at 2:16 PM on November 23, 2009


Particularly if you word it more like "a holiday rooted in destroying one of the most intrinsically evil cultures the world has ever known".

Well, only if you discount many of the other slave-owning cultures as not "intrinsically evil". There were slave cultures that make the American South in the 1900s look positively nice (some periods of Roman history, for example, were far more brutal to slaves and non-slaves).
posted by wildcrdj at 2:54 PM on November 23, 2009


You could argue the South became a nation directly because they wanted to protect their ability to own slaves. Unlike other societies, that vice was their raison d'etre.

Still, I don't know if I'd consider them that "intrinsically evil." Slave owning is terrible, but I think genocide, which is the intent to kill an entire ethnicity or people of a culture, is more intrinsically evil. Of course, slavery also took place over a longer time than the holocaust, in plain view of society, and the majority of the time it was legal, it took place under the Union.

Anyway, let's not get too deep into arguing who was worst, and focus on how to right wrongs and improve things in the present. The Oppression Olympics are only good for dividing wronged people and setting them against each other, when we should really all be working together for a better, more equitable world.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:42 PM on November 23, 2009


'Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong' and 'Teaching What Really Happened' by James Loewen.
posted by ericb at 4:47 PM on November 23, 2009


Also: Sorry, guys, you're not noble just because you lost.

Man, I spent all day (in a Native community) being pissed at this phrase.

The Jews aren't noble because they survived the holocaust. OK. That doesn't justify the holocaust.

The Tutsis aren't noble because they survived the Hutu genocide. That doesn't justify the genocide.

I do believe surviving attempted genocide confers a certain degree of nobility. And we'll see who "lost" not too long from now. Western snivelization is imploding on its own failure to use the earth wisely. But the point isn't that Native people were or are more "noble" than anyone else -- itself an entirely western fixation. They were lied to, murdered, and dispossessed by evil people. That's all that needs saying.

If history is going to be ethically judged by who "won" by killing someone else and stealing their *sovereign* territory, then the nobility all around, boys.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:45 PM on November 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also: Sorry, guys, you're not noble just because you lost.

Yeah, I'm also compelled to add something here, which is this:

That's gotta be right up there in the upper echelons of the most boneheaded, pathetic and offensive commentary to ever appear at Metafilter.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:08 PM on November 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


(Says the person who went to Waite Phillips Elementary School and had to learn all the Phillips bio info to pass 4th grade.)

I'm really glad you cleared up the distinction between Wade Phillips and Waite Phillips, dw.


Yeah My bad. I spent three years in Bartlesville, OK, and have backpacked for two weeks at Philmont (about a week or so after moving to Bartlesville, which is basically Phillipsville, in reality) and got confused. For one, I'd never seen Waite Phillips' name in print before, somehow, and so, due to the Texan and Okie accents I grew up around, it always sounded like "Wade" Phillips to me. Secondly, I thought for some reason that both of them had history in Bartlesville, and Waite, there, is always spoken of as the more wayward brother, so the mistress story made me think that WooLaRoc must have been his.

Anyway, as to the "most intrinsically evil culture" thing, well... I'm looking at it about the same way as the Columbus discussion. In my public-school education on Columbus, it started out with the whole "they all thought the Earth was flat!" thing, which later evolved to, well, no, all but the most ignorant knew that the earth was round, but nobody had actually set off in that direction before... In the end, I'd never heard about Columbus' belief in a much smaller hemisphere than was scientifically understood at the time, but rather my learned version was that eastern nautical passage from Spain to India was a huge pain in the ass, and that Columbus was searching for funding to see whether a more direct western passage might be more feasible.

And then, discovering the New World, decided that it was India, or close enough, and then when his initial misconception was brought to light, proceeded to rape and pillage the world he had discovered.

Similarly, I was brought up initially being taught that the Civil War was about slavery. Later on, that changed into, "well, slavery was a part of it, but really it was about states' rights and agrarian vs. industrial economics in the north and the south. Later on, it became clear that the agrarian model depended upon slavery to keep itself solvent and viable the way that it was running, and that the only real states' rights issue was that of slavery being legal and who was going to decide that it wasn't, but I'm still glad that I know and understand the politics of it.

Looking at the Cherokee I was describing above, along with the constitutional government and written language and schools and free press, they also got into slave-owning. On the one hand, they did this in order to prove to the white Americans that they were a viable culture and nation worthy of independence and trade status. On the other hand, is condoning slavery something we can really be comfortable chalking up to cultural peer-pressure and white-washing away? And if so, does it soften the ground for excusing it as the backbone for an economy that knew no other way and was going to fight for it out of fear of poverty?

My instinct is to say no. Slavery is evil no matter the circumstances. But I do think there's a weird Euro0centric methodology in place when we look at the slave trade, and see the Cherokee involved in it, or the African side involving warring tribes selling their enemies to the British and the Dutch to be shipped to the Americas, and act as if they are lesser evils, or more understandable, because they were from cultures that didn't have the benefit of morals that the Europeans had, and that the Southerners were the evil culture because they should have known better.

Evil is evil all over the world, and circumstances will always exist that give rise to excuses for it. The culture of slavery is always evil (and persists now, though we ignore it for our own benefit still.) Is the antebellum South intrinsically evil? Yes, in a way, but the most intrinsically evil culture ever? The logical leaps to get there involve a lot of assumptions I'm not ready to make.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:43 PM on November 23, 2009


"Man, I spent all day (in a Native community) being pissed at this phrase.

Good for you, champ!

The Jews aren't noble because they survived the holocaust. OK. That doesn't justify the holocaust."

Ooh, gonna lead with the Holocaust! This will surely be well-reasoned! Because I totally said that the genocide of Native Americans was justified!

The Tutsis aren't noble because they survived the Hutu genocide. That doesn't justify the genocide."

See, this is what happens when you lead with the Holocaust. Where do you go from there? Tutsis and Hutus? Anti-climactic, my friend.

I do believe surviving attempted genocide confers a certain degree of nobility. And we'll see who "lost" not too long from now. Western snivelization is imploding on its own failure to use the earth wisely. But the point isn't that Native people were or are more "noble" than anyone else -- itself an entirely western fixation. They were lied to, murdered, and dispossessed by evil people. That's all that needs saying."

Snivilization? Did you say "zing" when you typed that? Because I would have.

But hey, I do like how you make the same mistake that several of the critical links do, assuming that all the Native Americans were one happy commingled race and that all Europeans acted the same toward them. No, there were never sneak attacks and massacres perpetrated by First Nations, and there was never any peaceable trade or consensual intermarriage! Why? Because it feels really good to thump the tub for those poor Indians who we conveniently ignore for the vast majority of the year!

If history is going to be ethically judged by who "won" by killing someone else and stealing their *sovereign* territory, then the nobility all around, boys."

Hey, thanks! I am feeling pretty noble today, though my people mostly got over here in the great German migration of the 19th century (those that didn't were the Cherokee). How about this, though—the Nations that Europeans found when they arrived in America were of variegated character and "nobility," and the vast majority of their legitimate claims of shabby treatment come significantly after the mythical Thanksgiving that we celebrate, so when someone attempts to conflate those issues I assume they're either stupid or deliberately manipulative. Likewise, when there's the pretense that, say, the Indian Wars were all conducted by a monolithic bloc of Europeans against all Indians, instead of some Indians and some Europeans against some other Indians and some other Europeans.

And none of that means that the Trail of Tears wasn't horrendous and evil, just that Thanksgiving wasn't the Trail of Tears.
posted by klangklangston at 8:41 AM on November 24, 2009


It seems far more intellectually dishonest to insist that the celebrants of a feast are complicit in the crimes committed by the earliest celebrants.

Well, it's not only about the "crimes committed by the earliest celebrants" and their victims, it's how those "crimes" affect the current lives of the celebrants' descendants and their victims' descendants.

In other words, no Thanksgiving without reparations. (Casinos don't count. They earned that money fair and square (well, at least square).)

Or what muddgirl said. At least acknowledge the dark side of the U.S. holiday rather than propagating the conventional mythology.

We do that with Columbus/Indigenous Peoples Days. We don't do it with Thanksgiving.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:48 AM on November 25, 2009


mrgrimm, I assume that your Memorial Day is extra-eponysterical.
posted by desuetude at 2:25 PM on November 25, 2009


Hey, thanks! I am feeling pretty noble today

i'm kneeling as i type my reply to you - believe me, i am
posted by pyramid termite at 8:53 PM on November 25, 2009


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