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Nov. 26th, 2007

Things I Wish I'd Posted Before Thanksgiving

Though post-Thanksgiving will still do. Something articles just brought to my attention thanks to feministing that I figured I would share.

Why We shouldn't Celebrate Thanksgiving
National Day of Mourning

Why These came to my attention?

Randomness dropped them in my lap but what drew me into the top article is really a couple of things. First is that I really don't like Thanksgiving or a lot of secular holidays from the get go so the suggestion to do away with them or replace them doesn't immediately outrage me as it might some. Second focus today on the loving peace between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims makes me somewhat ill. I watched a news report on Tuesday about how the Pilgrims "traditionally" celebrated Thanksgiving and the whole thing made me rather angry. The only thing that made me more annoyed was how much my parents seemed to be into the report. I guess I'm not the target viewer.

Forms of protest interest me, especially when the protest is something that one integrates into their public and private life. It is one thing to stand at rallies with hundreds of other people and another to stand up in one's family and friends group for something that they might not like. I think it's a lot harder to design and follow through in something that affects one's private life and I'm always interested in seeing how people do that and what causes they thing are worth it.

What interests me about the second article is first and foremost that I've never heard of the National Day of Mourning before. I mean I love about forty minute away from Plymouth, Ma where the protest is held and I've never seen a news report or heard a mention of it. I never went looking for it, but it's kind of odd to think that this has been going on for so long and no one (including the news) thought it was important enough to mention. I think this has less to do with the size of the protest or the actual organization and more to do with keeping quiet ideas the public doesn't want to think about. Of course in recent years, even the Native American tribes in the surrounding areas haven't really been involved in the protest, which raises other interesting questions about what might be the right way to run a protest or raise awareness, but it also raises questions about the true motives of the people running the protests if they refuse to involve a large local Native American presence.

Will it change my Thanksgiving practices?

I'm not certain. I agree with the article that there needs to be a change, but I don't know what that change is. I don't think fasting is really the way to go. I don't hold responsibility for what historically happened to most Native Americans. What happened to their people is terrible, and I do think that Thanksgiving in a lot of ways helps to trivialize their history, but I'm not certain what should be done to alter this.

Part of it is that I don't know how I feel about fasting. A lot of religious traditions tie it to penance, which isn't appropriate. Other religions tie to to "purifying" which again I don't see as the correct message. I guess I just don't see how me spending a day not eating actually helps to raise awareness or helps to alter our culture except that I'm electing to do the opposite on Thanksgiving than what is culturally expected. Doing the opposite just to be contrary doesn't really help send a message to me.

Also, to be honest, fasting isn't fun. No one I know enjoys it. Eating delicious food in a familiar comfortable atmosphere is fun. You don't get people to listen to your message, no matter how good it is, by telling them to choose to do the not fun thing. I mean if it makes sense on a personal level for one to fast or if you aren't interested in getting mass attention, fasting is fine. For me, awareness of the masses is very important, so often I look at protest modes to see if it would be something that realistically a lot of people would find "fun" or "interesting" or "worth the sacrifice". Fasting doesn't seem to be something that would really have a mass appeal and I already know those who are doing it aren't getting any media coverage so...

I do like the idea of a autumn feast. For me changing that date to line up with one of the three Neo-pagan "harvest feasts" probably makes sense for me. That way the celebration could really be about the crops brought in and about setting a side time to gather as a family. We could really spend time thinking about what we have been given and what we should be thankful for. I'm not sure how my family would feel about this. Though since I try to observe the local seasonal changes instead of the pre-chosen not really correct Neo-pagan dates, this might help my argument in favor of a different date. Even if it isn't something I can do with my family (parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and siblings), it is probably something I could enjoy with my friends and my potential future family (the bf maybe kids one day).

My date would probably be in early November and I'd probably make it whenever is most convient/ lines up best with the seasonal shift and is convient. I think I'd try not to make any connection with Thanksgiving at all.

As for the actual Thanksgiving day, I think just not celebrating it and explaining why might be the best way to handle the holiday. If I had infinite time and resources or if there were other locally interested people, I'd add an awareness campaign on that too, similar to how some feminists handle Valentine's Day with a week long spousal/relationship abuse awareness coupled with performances of the vagina monologues Part of what I like about how I've seen these awareness protests done is that they aren't "anti-Valentine's Day" and they don't suggest that you personally stop celebrating or that you are responsible for other's hardships, they just raise awareness of gender discrimination. They sometimes suggest or advocate a different way to celebrate the day because current celebrations might help support discrimination, but they don't necessarily demand change, just thought. V-day count downs do their best to be inclusive, and for people who want to demonstrate or do something beyond just "not celebrating" they give an alternative that can be enjoyable to everyone.

One thing I think that all people promoting "alternatives" or speaking out against societal norms have to be careful of is that they don't completely turn the masses off to their message by pointing fingers or being overly aggressive. There is a very fine line between presenting issues and giving people the freedom to make their own choices with information and preaching to people and telling them that what they are doing is "wrong" and making them "Bad people". I doubt this is ever a person's intention, but I also know this is often the message people get if groups are not careful in their method of presentation.

I had other tag on thoughts, but I think I covered the big ones here, so I'll save others for other posts. I'm still a little scattered on this so meh. This is what I have right now.