Thursday, November 25, 2010
Obama, turkeys and why Thanksgiving makes me queasy
I feel like I have emerged from a dream in which Lawrence Welk and the Osmonds took me for a singalong in a giant cake oozing pink vanilla icing where they promised me I would meet Barry Manilow and he would croon: "Oh Mandy."
It started with some schmaltzy stuff on TV. I have no clue what because I found myself clicking the TV manically looking for one of those crime shows where they nail the man who mutilated the prostitute through a DNA sample from a hair or nefarious bodily fluid. At the same time I am thinking about my recipe for Thanksgiving lunch and wondering when I'll get a battery for the remote control.
And what about those Facebook messages from friends over here? People posting about how grateful they are to be alive and in the bosoms of their families, how much they love God, how happy they are to be Americans blah blah.
Then there was the personal email we received this morning from the President. How nice that Barack takes the time to personally email every American citizen.
"When Michelle and I sit down with our family to give thanks today, I want you to know that we'll be especially grateful for folks like you. Everything we have been able to accomplish in the last two years was possible because you have been willing to work for it and organize for it."
Sorry. Having a few problems with that mid sized a-word Barack (my voice suddenly gets all sinister Sarah Palinesque) . Have you been to Guantanamo Bay recently? If you did you might realize it's still open.
The warm Thanksgiving messages are nice in a way but I can never buy into this kind of thing. You can take the Brit out of Britain but you can't take the cynicism out of the Brit.
I can only conclude that as a journalist and someone who has flirted with academia that I have a predisposition to be Godless, as Palin herself put it this week.
Maybe I can tweet her to confirm her worst fears. Dear Sarah - just to confirm I will indeed be spending Thanksgiving in a small bare room worshipping a bust of Leon Trotsky ($9.99 from Target) as I plan to turn America red Wal-Mart by Wal-Mart.
Come to think of it, it's kind of ironic that turning America red is also a way of describing something Palin would favor - a Republican clean sweep. In Britain the left of center party is red and the conservatives are blue. I digress.
As far as Thanksgiving goes there are a couple of things to be thankful for. There's a day off work and (um) a day off work.
Of course, like most holidays, the origins of Thanksgiving are muddled.
In a very tiny nutshell once upon a time there were some religious extremists who lived in a rather flat part of England where men were men and your sister was fair game. They escaped to Holland so as they could beat their wives in public, unmolested by the authorities.
However, the Puritans were rather shocked to find coffee houses with large spliffs on the menu so they decided to make a voyage to the New World.
The origins of Thanksgiving in 1621 are described thus on History.com.
"In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit.
"Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days. While no record exists of the historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer."
It was actually Abraham Lincoln who invented the holiday as a kind of feelgood event because there was a rather nasty war going on at the time.
Sadly many people forget that by 1685 New England was plunged into a devastating conflict between the settlers and the Indians known as King Philip's War that led to the deaths of hundreds of settlers and wiped out about 40 percent of the Indian population.
By all accounts the war was devastating to the native peoples. Entire families were sold into slavery abroad and others because servants. The Wampanoag had to sacrifice their culture to survive.
By 1700 tribal leaders would have been entitled to formally ask for a few of those deer back.
Sadly King Philip's War was just the first episode in a long tragedy for the native people.
That's not why I feel queasy, though, this Thanksgiving. Perhaps I'm just not good at being nice. And I haven't even hit the dietary overload button, yet.
BTW there's a caption contest on the go for the Bush photo. My pathetic effort is: "Not now Condi."