28 November 2013

On Thanksgiving; Thanks Giving

This is the week, and this is the day, this is the time, and this is the record of the time, that celebrates that most un-American of quintessentially American holidays (with the possible exception of the annual Jesus-Free Christmas Consumer-Off), which is to say, this is the holy day that we call Thanksgiving.

Now, friends, please understand, I love Thanksgiving.
I love its benighted mythology.
I love gourds and cranberry sauce.
I love turkey meat and pumpkin meat in pumpkin pie.
I love gratitude and anatomically-impossible, construction paper, hand-tracings of turkeys, misproduced and reproduced by American school children across this great land, to, accidentally, but nonetheless, implicitly, celebrate the glorious ascendance of Corporate Megaloagriculture over the lowly traditional farmer and the hateful zero-profit tyranny of the traditional genome. 

Thanksgiving is the least American of American holy days (again, with the very possible exception of Christmas, which lags in patriotism due to its European--arguably Mediterranean and Semitic, which is to say Jewish--roots; but American Christmas more than makes up for that easily forgotten awkwardness by its spectacular recuperation--no, let us say conversion--of the birth of the all-saving God-made-Man into the exact opposite of the exaltation of the spirit and of humility, charity, hope, joy, community, and real pleasure in one another: into the cynical parody of ethics we call Santa Claus, which is already the most cynical parody-in-miniature of that lame play-good-for-the-afterlife-reward mentality cooked up in Heaven using the fires of Hell. Well. Hell. Look at that amazingly long parenthetical digression. I do apologize for that, but nonetheless) Thanksgiving is the least American of quintessentially American holy days because it seeks to valorize--despite (or, perhaps, probably, because of) the manifold, endless, Pollyanna lies it files against history--gratitude, community, coöperation, safety from overweening persecution, acceptance of the inscrutable ethnic other, labor, sharing, and peace, no matter how short-lived or fictional. It is the least American of American holy days because, for once we, as America, as Americans, are not supposed to be about the all-sacred individual (which is the only thing more sacred in America than any trinity), and for a few minutes we are not supposed to be about trying to become Oprah Winfrey or Rush Limbaugh or Bill Clinton or Ayn Rand or Tyra Banks or Sarah Palin or Donald Trump or Paris Hilton or Michael Bloomburg or trying to fulfill the Warholian curse to be famous for fifteen minutes. 

For once, once a year, we are required to feel grateful. But gratitude is a long, inward journey, and we Americans are very impatient with the words "journey," "long," and "inward." We are faced with the injunction to feel grateful for something, for anything, but we are a busy people, harried by instant messaging, instant results, instant approval, and instant gratification, and, without having taken the time to make that trek into the questions of who we are or what is really important, we ask with some, perhaps, "honest"-seeming confusion: "For what?"