Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thanksgiving realness

Hey everyone!  I've been thinking about writing this post for the last
few days.  I gotta say, I am really excited about it.  I was almost
more excited to do ACTUAL RESEARCH about it, and also to share my
findings with you.

I want to talk about Thanksgiving, and I want to talk about the fact
that on the actual day of Thanksgiving, I am sure there will be many
posts and comments from many people regarding the true meaning of
Thanksgiving, and how we have built this country on nothing but trans
fats and Indian bones.  While I don't doubt the manner of murder,
appropriation, and opression that has paved the way for us all, I have
a few things to say about the decisions you all make when you decide
to take up a cause.  First of all, know your history.  If there's one
thing I've noticed about the world, and the young idiots that are
plotting and planning on running this world, it's that you all know
dick about your own country's history.  Here's the thing; I am proud
of you for standing up for social justice issues, because they are
important.  What I simply cannot sit idly by and watch, is when you
all post generic pictures of an indiginous person of the Americas, in
front of an American flag(a flag with 50 stars I might add.  Let's
just say this photo was taken around the 1850s.  There would have only
been 31 stars.)  At the , or a generic picture of a Chief of a non
descript tribe with that horrible giant white meme font over it that
reads something like, "US government lied to you?  That must be
tough."  which is HILARIOUS, because there was BARELY a functioning
government when this photo was taken.  If the first recorded permanent
image was taken by Thomas Wedgewood in 1790, and our founding fathers
signed the Constitution in 1776, that's 26 years of the most basic
government, so internet, check your facts.  ALSO, can we talk about
how every single on of these photographs is of the same man, and is
supposed to represent roughly 18 million people(before the first
European invasions), of varying tribes, the math on that
people.  Your heart is in the right place, but you need to think about
what you're doing when you put up a generic photo with a generic
phrase that was most likely written by a white college kid who just
took Anthro 101, and you think you're really saying something. Well,
you are, you're just saying the wrong thing.  You're generalizing and
marginalizing further, a people who have already been marginalized,
stereotyped, and shoved out of the way in the name of Manifest
Destiny.  '

Now, what I really want to say, is that there is nothing wrong with
the celebration of Thanksgiving in today's modern world.  If you dig
even a centimeter down, you will learn that Thanksgiving was already
being celebrated in England.  It had already been a tradition of
English reformers years before they came to Plymouth

   "Days of Thanksgiving and special thanksgivng religious services
became important during the English Reformation in the reign of Henry

Basically, the church used to have 95 church holidays, where it was
mandatory for all people to attend church, not go to work, ,and pay
for expensive church relegated events.  The Puritans were pretty much
like, "Yeah, this is costing us a million dollars, and we, like, don't
even want to go to this party."  Oh, yeah, the year is 1536, which is
84 years before those 102 passengers, 14 crew members, and 2 dogs
would sail from September 6 to November 21 1620 in search of religious

Ok, so the reformers pared all of these church mandated holy days down
to two days;  Days of Fasting and days of Thanksgiving.  They, being a
religious folk, placed their faith in their god and in the face of
disaster or "threats of judgement from god," resorted to fasting as a
means of penance. The times where they felt god had especially blessed
them were referred to as Days of Thanksgiving.  Canada also celebrates
Thanksgiving on October 14th.  As do Liberians, Puerto Ricans, and the
folks from Norfolk Island.

The history of Thanksgiving in the United States is not well
documented, however, there are accounts of what took place there.  I
would also like to note that of the 102 passengers traveling on the
Mayflower (one of whom was an indentured servant of Edward Winslow,
named George Soule, who is, one of my distant relatives.) only 57
survived that first year, mostly due to the poor traveling conditions
of the Mayflower, and of course, good old scurvy.  Only 53 pilgrims
attended that first Thanksgiving in 1622, along with 90 Native
Americans.  Now, here's where I know all of you are getting your
knickers in a twist.  It's obvious that the Pilgrims didn't know their
asses from their elbows when they got to Massachusettes, and that they
didn't only die from poor conditions on the ship, many of them died
from starvation, probably lack of basic working medical knowledge
(Penicillin wasn't discovered until 1929)  and starvation.  The tribe
that was present for that first Thanksgiving was the Wampanoag, along
with Tisquantum, or as we were all so basically taught in school,
"Squanto."  He was a real dude.  A member of the Patuxset tribe,
Tisquantum was captured by Captain George Weymouth in around 1605 and
taken to England.  There he learned English, and thus became an
interpreter for the white men.  He made it back to New england in
around 1614, and was abducted again by Captain John Smith, who
attempted to sell him and a few other gents into slavery in Spain.
Squanto was taken in by some local friars who were on to Smith's slave
trade game, and Squanto convinced them to let him return home.  He
made his way back to London, and then travelled to Newfoundland in
1617.  One year later, he was back in London, and then finally made it
back to North American in 1619.   Upon his arrival back in new
England, he discovered that mostof this tribe, and the coastal New
England tribes had been killed off by plague, which was thought to be
smallpox, but was more likely that it was "Leptospirosis," which is a
bacterial infection that is transmitted to humans through water
contaminated with animal urine.  Whoa.  Learn something new every day

From here we pretty much know what happened, or what we think
happened.  Tisquantum was introduced to the Plymouth colonists by "the
Abenaki sagamore, Samoset." who was actually the first indiginous
person to make contact with the Pilgrims.  Tisquantum's involvement
from here is somthing that we may never know the exactness of, but he
was accounted for in the records and writings of Edward Winslow.

Listen, I know this is a lot, and I know that when ya'll read this,
you will be bored, (and maybe a little mad).  It is your natural
reaction to history, I know.  I'm almost done I promise.  I'd like to
bring it back around to this simple fact, the Pilgrims celebrated
Thanksgiving as a celebration of familiar traditions from their former
home.  They packed up their shit and left their home, hoping for
something better, and those first few years brought them a whole lot
of death and misery.  Having a celebration after a shitty year, to
ring in your accomplishments, which were, at that point, just staying
alive, seems pretty decent in my book.  Sure, the Thanksgiving we know
and love now is, I am sure a far cry from what it was in 1622, but
that's ok.  I'm sure if the Pilgrims had canned yamms with
marshmallows on top, they would have loved it.

Traditions are a funny thing right? I bet, if you looked at any
holiday, or tradition throughout your own cultural history, you would
find events in history much like Thanksgiving.  Also, I would like to
remind EVERYONE that I know how fucked up our collective American
history is, and I'm not denying that relations between the white men
and women who landed in Plymouth had a perfect Pleasantville
relationship with the people who arrived first, but I would also just
like to remind everyone that if your ancestors, or mine had never
decided to get out of the hells they were living in, none of you would
even be here.  It also should be noted that once upon a time, all land
masses on the planet were connected and early men, women, and children
walked across vast expanses of land in order to find somewhere new for
whatever their reasons may have been, most likely, food availability,
shelter, climate change, etc. Basically, we come from here, but our
ancestors ALL come from everywhere, and if they hadn't made that trek
to where they are now, your happy asses wouldn't be staring down into
the depths of your iphone reading my bitchy blog.  The entire world
has a sordid, bloody, and unjust history strewn with the bodies of
those oppressed, enslaved, and held down by those who put themselves
in charge of other people.  Instead of posting some bogus meme trying
to convey your feeble attempts at social activism, do a little
digging, learn a little something about what you're actually saying,
and then come at me.  History is important, and there are no excuses
for not knowing your own country's heritage.  Yes, it has had its
horrifying moments, and no, we are not finished, and may never be
finished fighting the good fight, which is, making sure that every
single person in this country, in this world, has the same rights, and
is treated the same regardless of your color, or whether you do or do
not believe in a god.

History is extremely complicated.  Facts are sometimes hard to check,
they are not always the most accurate, they are often biased, and they
are constantly being challenged, contested, and amended.  Our
collective history as Americans is something we need to learn from,
and learn about, so take a second and learn about it.  From Chicago,
take the interstate straight west towards the Mississippi, and take in
the landscape.  Can you imagine being one of the first people to lay
eyes on those bluffs, let alone, that wide, soulful river?  Can you
imagine travelling for months only to discover Yellowstone?  Can you,
for a second, imagine being on a musty old tall ship for the better
part of two months, smelling other people's shit and vomit, wondering
if you're going to make it there, wondering if you're going to die,
wondering if your family is going to die, wondering what the hell you
just did, and if you made the right choice?  Can you then imagine
arriving to the place you were sailing to, and then watching half of
your friends and family die in that first year?  You might get to
thinking that you made the wrong choice.  Then, by some miracle, a
group of helpful locals basically take pity on your dumb asses and
teach you how to cultivate the land, grow your own food, and how to
live off of what the land provides.  At the end of that second year,
you've managed to grow a bunch of food, and your remaining family and
friends will live to see another year.  Who wouldn't want to
celebrate?  I sure would.

In closing, I urge you to remember where you come from and what and
who got you here, and what you truly have to be thankful for as a
person of this country.  I also urge you to involve yourself in the
history of this country beyond superficial knowledge, and to attempt
to truly understand what it is you want to say, and are saying about
it.  I leave you with this:

"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday
epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how
we experience life and the world." -John Milton


1 comment:

  1. Yo Tran Drescher it's T (like T-T) and I am going to start a technical metal band called "Leptospirosis." Thank you. P.S. WHAT UP INTERNET!!!!