Monday Muse: Thanksgiving

Hey! Welcome to the Muse, my fine friends, and salutations! I did that backwards, I think. Whatever.

This Thursday in America is Thanksgiving. The day we celebrate that time a bunch of religious refugees really *did* pose a substantive threat to the native population. Okay…I swore I wouldn’t get political. I couldn’t help it. I just…as a historian, I look back at all the times this country could have done the right thing and didn’t because of fear. Because we decided the risk wasn’t worth the reward. And I can tell you, it has never ended well for the people we wouldn’t help. Oh, sure, America usually gets through it fine, but…anyway, sorry.

I was thinking about Thanksgiving because, for the first time in a long time, I will not be able to celebrate it with my family. My mother–God bless her heart–decided this was the time to go visit her family in Turkey and is now a little over 100 miles from the Syrian border. Am I happy about this? No. But I understand why she felt she had to go. Her father died earlier this year and she was unable to say goodbye; she wants to go be with the family of her childhood, and I can understand that.

Thanksgiving in the modern sense began during the Civil War, when President Lincoln declared the final Thursday of November a day to sit down and be thankful for everything we’ve got. Over 600,000 soldiers went on to die in that conflict. It was a time when death became every American’s constant companion, and the President was asking us to be mindful of what we have. I guess it’s stupid because my mom is only over there for a week and some people live with such conflict every day, but I know I’ll be spending Thanksgiving just a little bit worried. And I will be extremely thankful for her safe return.

The thing is, Thanksgiving is probably one of the purest holidays we have in this country. It’s about getting the family together over delicious food and thinking about the positive things in your life. I know I am extraordinarily fortunate to be all the things I am–healthy, American, white, educated, financially stable, surrounded by loved ones, etc–and able to do the things I want in life. But how many other holidays are just about gathering the people you love–your family, whether that be blood or not–and focusing on what you have?

I guess that’s why I get so upset when Christmas decides to horn its way in. There really isn’t a lot of money to be made on the concept of Thanksgiving. I mean, sure, grocery stores and the like do very well, but there really isn’t much capitalism inherent in a holiday meant to take stock of what you are blessed to have. In finding the light in the darkness, or realizing how little darkness there actually is and being thankful for it. Now I’m not anti-capitalist–I can acknowledge the good it’s done and does–but it pisses me the hell off that Thanksgiving has been invaded to the point that it’s basically now Black Friday Eve. That it’s overshadowed by the need to put up Christmas lights and buy, buy, buy. Doesn’t anyone else think it is not only ridiculous but nearly profane to encourage people to abandon their tables and their thankfulness for a gross adventure in greed and materialism? Thanksgiving should not be, “I am thankful I have my family, but what I really want is that PS4 that’s on sale!” (Is that still the new one? I don’t know much about this stuff.) We should not take stock of what we have as some sort of inventory showing what we don’t.

There are a lot of people out there whose lives are crap. More than crap. There are children out there whose homes have been destroyed, and who have no idea where they are going to go. They are lost and often alone, starving and frightened. They are dying in droves beneath the thumbs of terror and greed. Now, I am not saying we are all responsible for this, though I do personally believe we are all responsible for our fellow man. I am not saying we should abnegate personal happiness or the pursuit of that happiness. But what I am saying is maybe we should sit down for a bloody minute and be thankful that, but for the grace of God (or whatever, if you don’t believe in God; it’s just an expression) go I. Please. Stay home on Thanksgiving. Take stock of everything that’s gone right in your lives and express your thankfulness. Keep this holiday pure.

And, for the love of God, be nice if you go out on Black Friday. No deal is worth becoming an asshole. Especially to the people who have been forced to work it. As someone who spent some years behind a counter, I can tell you that most of them are tired, overwhelmed, and trying their best. Just be nice and you’ll make the whole experience better.

Or, better yet, stay the heck home on Friday. That’s what the internet is for.

C

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