Thanksgiving is one of eleven federal holidays, although I’m sure had it come up for modern day consideration and been recommended by Barack Obama, we wouldn’t be enjoying our turkey and four-day weekend, given that Congress makes the final holiday or no holiday decision.
In fact, there was a brouhaha between a president and his Congress when FDR decided, under merchant pressure, that the third Thursday for turkey day would be preferable to the fourth Thursday of November. Congress got its back up and the holiday reverted to its original designation. All was not lost for retail, however, when the Friday following Thanksgiving evolved into Black Friday, the first day of Christmas shopping, and paying customers flocked to stores, nationwide.
In our complex, contemporary America, finding reasons to give thanks, especially in wake of Ferguson, are becoming more and more elusive. Of course, there’s family and friends, health, your faith, your good fortune, if, in fact, you’re enjoying good fortune, and the things that bring you enjoyment; TV, sports, hobbies and whatever else makes for a satisfying life. On Thanksgiving, we give special thanks and recognition for these gifts (Christians would call them blessings), once a year.
Not to be a contrarian here, but I’m just not feeling it as much this year, though lord knows, I’m in good shape in most meaningful ways. It’s not just events of 2014, but a build-up of social and political injustices and upheavals that leave part of my thankfulness wanting. It’s hard to shake the images of a small suburb going up in flames in reaction to a weak cop getting away with a killing that didn’t have to happen. I’ll have a full accounting of the just-released Wilson grand jury transcript and “evidence” early next week.
To put Thanksgiving and this country into perspective, a goodly segment of our citizenry needs to be at least slightly objective about what this country has represented throughout its existence. We keep hearing about the glories of our early history; freedom and liberty are the watchwords incessantly spewed by of one of the two major political parties. Whose freedom? Whose liberty?
President Obama put a fine point on what is lacking in the political debate in the U.S. during a recent Chicago speech to a largely Hispanic/Latino audience. Three hecklers, most likely directed by one of thousands of phony and hugely politicized 501c3’s, were giving the president hell, ostensibly for his deportation actions. A group did exactly the same thing in a Joe Biden Detroit speech at the June Netroots convention I attended.
The Chicago trio was masking their true intentions. The first was to deflect attention from a speech that was being given a very positive response from the audience of 1,800 people. With the yelling and screaming, the media emphasis would be drawn away from 1,800 Obama enthusiast and directed to three very well rehearsed (and probably compensated) protesters. And the object of their hollering and incivility had nothing to do with deportation. It was really about the very well received most recent executive actions by the president benefiting 5 million “illegal” immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
After explaining the exact nature of his actions, the president said: “But the point is, let’s make sure that you get the facts and that you know exactly what we’re doing.”
A majority of Americans never bother to “get the facts.” That’s why they’re such easy targets for the propagandist media and politicians fiscally shored up by self-serving billionaire and multi-national business interests. And Democrats paid mightily for these shortcomings in the mid-term elections. Little for reasonable people to thankful for.
Few nations are within light years of being perfect. Virtually all industrialized countries have a history of unjust wars, imperialism and mass murder. The only way America is going to be the ideal as painted by the propagandists is to recognize its own role in some really terrible and wretched behaviors.
But let’s start on a positive note. Let’s go back to our first Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621 featuring the Pilgrim separatists and adventurers, barely removed from their two-month Mayflower voyage from England in 1620, and a Native American (and I mean NATIVE American) tribe, the Wampanoags. The tribe taught the newcomers how to plant and grow crops. The celebration went on for days and there was probably nary a turkey in sight. Most likely the fare of the day was the Pilgrim-shot duck or venison from deer the Wampanoags brought down. The two cultures got along famously, dancing, target shooting, ring tossing and just having a good time.
Shortly after this mutual love-in, the tribe declared war on the incoming English. Their numbers were taking over Wampanoag territory and the newcomers were trying to convert the natives to their religion. The war was extremely bloody and most of the tribal combatants were killed by the interlopers. So, that period of time, not only marked the beginning of our traditional Thanksgiving, it also marked the end of cordial relations between the new colonists and subsequent settlers and Indian tribes. We (Americans) ended up killing millions of those proud individuals who were on this land 15,000 years ago according to DNA studies.
Right-wingers will attribute a great percentage of Native American deaths to disease. That assumption is partially true. Much of the population that did succumb to disease did so because of forced displacement and marches and very cramped populations after being pushed off their land by settlers. Check the 1830’s Removal Act and “Trail of Tears” history. The latter virtually wiping out the Cherokee tribe. Starvation and deadly weather conditions also claimed many lives.
Any definition short of genocide does a disservice to the countless Native American victims of our murderous ways. And we haven’t even talked of slavery. Read up on your early politicians and their unbridled enthusiasm for putting other humans in bondage. On the other side, familiarize yourselves with such heroic episodes as the John Brown ill-fated precursor to the Civil War, the Harper’s Ferry raid, led by an abolitionist’ effort to free slaves and attack slaveholders.
Learn about the Mexican War, the history of California and Texas, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Missouri Compromise; the good guys and the bad guys, the horrific presidency of slavery-loving Franklin Pierce (another Civil War precursor). Read books about John Calhoun, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay and obscure names like Georgia’s Robert Toombs. Stop defending and voting for goofy and harmful initiatives based on this countries misunderstood and unclaimed history.
It will only be through acknowledging the true historical misbehaviors of United States leadership, both Republican AND Democrat, obsessed with control and power, that we can truly be thankful.
Raised rural & small town, then lived in N.Y., Chicago & LA. Widely traveled. Returned from world wandering to pursue media life of anchorman/reporter and major, medium and small market talk radio. Highly active in politics. Once worked as orderly & security in Mens Lock Ward for the Criminally Insane at a state institution. Much more rational population than current Teapublicans. Great concern for country run by and for the extreme wealthy. The inhumane current running through this country has no precedent in modern history.
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