Let me be honest, there are a lot of things I like about Thanksgiving. I think it’s nice to get together with the ones you love. I very much enjoy the food that is served. And I like the idea of modesty and not taking things for granted. Showing each other gratitude is never something I would oppose!
But Thanksgiving troubles me for some reasons too.
First of all, how we think about the history of Thanksgiving is blatantly racist, in my opinion. I mean, it was all about how the Native Americans saved the Pilgrims and they all celebrated together! How happy and wonderful! I think these kids do a much better interpretation of what actually happened (Hat Tip: The New Atheist):
Secondly, the roots of the celebration are inherently religious and the holiday continues to maintain a religious connotation. There is an assumption that “giving thanks” means “giving thanks to God.” (It reminds me of Astin’s “Spirituality” study when he asked students if they were “thankful for opportunities in their lives.” Thankful to whom? He claimed the study was not biased against nonbelievers. Right.) If you say you are thankful for anything abstract in your life, you are acknowledging that someone or something is responsible for it.
So, as an example, I am not thankful for my health. I’m healthy, and I’m glad I’m healthy, but I’m not thankful that I’m healthy. No one is responsible for the quality of my health right now except me. Now, there are people who have contributed to my health that I could thank. I might thank the people who farmed and produced the food that keeps me healthy or the people at the grocery store who stock it so I can access it. I might also thank the doctors that helped take care of me when I had surgery last year. But if I’m going to thank those people, I should actually thank them. Sitting around the table with my own family and calling out their names does nothing for them.
Maybe Thanksgiving is supposed to be an exercise in modesty, but then let’s call it that. Gratitude should be targeted at the people worthy of it. To say it at Thanksgiving either assumes that prayer will help deliver the message or that acknowledging the gratitude for ourselves is enough. That seems pretty self-serving, doesn’t it? I think giving thanks is important, but only if you actually give it. Maybe we should rename the holiday to Thankshaving.
Mostly, though, I think people are thanking God. He sure never gets tired of praise, does he? We’re thankful for the harvest, we’re thankful for our family getting here safely, we’re thankful for this food, we’re thankful for the Macy’s parade, we’re thankful to have a roof over our heads and a safe place to sleep, and we’re thankful for the love that fills this home. It all sounds great, until you realize how ludicrous it sounds to give some unknowable unprovable force credit for every damn thing that happens in our lives.
If we’re going to commit a day to recognizing what we appreciate in our lives, then I’m going to be real about it:
I recognize the ridiculously inequitable amount of privilege that I have for the color of my skin in this nation, a privilege I can trace back hundreds of years. I recognize the incredible amount of privilege I still have as a man, privilege that will surely play out at dinners across society as the woman toils to make most of the food but the man sits at the head of the table and cuts the turkey. I recognize that evolution is responsible for the human brain developing the flaw that looks to find meaning in all things that happen in life and I appreciate the fact that I can intellectually rise above and see circumstances for what they really are: merely circumstances. I can recognize that I have a lot of great things going for me in my life, and I probably don’t do enough to show appreciation to those who contribute to making it that way.
And lastly, thank you to all of you who have read ZackFord Blogs since I started it back in January. It means a lot to know that people are interested in reading what I have to write and taking the time to do so. Truly, thanks. To those of you traveling this week, be safe! I sincerely hope you have a wonderful, loving holiday with your family, friends, and loved ones.