Monday, April 19, 2021
Uncategorized The big Thanksgiving lies

The big Thanksgiving lies

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The history of feast day of gluttony and consumerism isn’t what you were told in school.

I wasn't like this at all. Really, it wasn't.
I wasn’t like this at all. Really, it wasn’t.

By  Tommi Avicolli Mecca

NOVEMBER 24, 2015 — There’s no denying that the popular story of the first Thanksgiving is a cultural myth, promoted by school textbooks that are anything but history. Propaganda’s a more fitting description. Just ask the Texas State Board of Education.

Many historians argue, as Richard Greener related in the Huffington Post, that the first Thanksgiving Day was declared by Massachusetts Colony Governor John Winthrop in 1637 “to celebrate the safe return of a band of heavily armed hunters” who had slaughtered 700 Pequot Indians, including men, women and children. Praise the lord and pass the mashed potatoes.

History is written by the victors, as Winston Churchill once noted. The victors in this case want to imagine a feast in 1621 that is more myth than reality, but in this day and age of reality TV, who can tell the difference? As historian James Loewen relates in his book Lies My Teacher Told Me, “The Pilgrims did not introduce the Native Americans to the tradition; Eastern Indians had observed autumnal harvest celebrations for centuries…our modern celebrations date back only to 1863…not until the 1890s did the Pilgrims get included in the tradition. For that matter, no one used the term Pilgrims until the 1870s.” All the food mentioned in the Thanksgiving tale were part of Native American cuisine, not European. 

The Pilgrims were right wing religious fanatics, to say the least. Unfit to survive in the wilderness, they dug up Native American graves to steal pottery and other treasures. They also raided Native Americans fields for crops and beans. Good thing they didn’t write the Bill of Rights or religious freedom would mean following their religion. The gospel according to the tea baggers and the Republican Party.

Then there’s the gluttony. Thanksgiving is a time of nationwide overconsumption. And waste. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 30% of the food Americans buy at the local grocery store or even at the food coop gets tossed out. That’s right. Into the garbage. Or compost bin. That translates into about $162 billion a year. Enough to feed millions of people or create jobs to help millions of people feed themselves.

VICE News reports that not only will people waste a ton of food on Thanksgiving, but the average meal will contain 3,000 or more calories, which is 1,000 more than recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration for an adult for an entire day. Don’t blame the cows for the sudden rise in methane.

Finally, tis the season to celebrate capitalism on steroids. It used to be that there was a bit of a separation between turkey day and the birthday of the imaginary savior. Now, shopping for that relative you can’t stand starts even before the hormone-filled turkey is in the oven and the steaming pesticide laden veggies and GMO corn are on the table. The other day, a little more than a week before Thanksgiving, I saw workers putting up Xmas decorations in City Hall here in San Francisco. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Texas State Board of Education suddenly proclaimed that Jesus said grace at the First Thanksgiving.

At least it’s a day off from work. For some of us.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

62 COMMENTS

  1. Burroughs did not kill any brown people, #analogyfail. Burroughs was not a spokesperson for anything or anyone, he was an author.

  2. And Burroughs used his white privilege to flee justice in a country of brown people, to a land that stole half their country, because he wouldn’t be extradited. Not the best spokesman, wouldn’t you agree?

  3. We’re sitting here in possession of stolen lands obtained by genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and you’re rocking on your hobby horse about one man’s fatal error, just to put things into perspective.

  4. So his friend thinks he’s a swell guy and a profound philosopher? Great. But if killing his wife made him such a great writer, imagine how much better he could have been if he had spent ten or twenty years in a Mexican jail to ponder the philosophical implications of his crime!

  5. Um…. Russia has elections. Are you really that ignorant? Actually, elections in Russia are more pluralistic than American elections. In Russia, parties from the left-wing Communists to the Trump-esque Liberal Democrats are represented in the Duma. And the candidate who gets the most votes for president wins -no exceptions.

    Whereas, in America, even you admit that the parties are not that different from each other. For all practical purposes, the US is a one-party state. There are some differences on social issues, a little bit on economic issues (about as much as between reformist and hard-line wings of the Chinese Communist Party). But both parties are essentially capitalist and corporatist, essentially imperialist. If you want something else, there is no choice. You call this democracy because we have elections? Elections have to be meaningful in order for it to be democracy.

  6. There is no perfect system. I start out from the premise that at least we have elections, which would rule out a bunch of places notably Russia and China.

    Money is perhaps too big a factor here. FPTP probably less so given that we really only have two parties and they are not that different from each other compared to other places.

    But it would be hard to conjure up an electoral system in the US where Sanders or Nader could even be President.

  7. Anyone who would ever conceivably read what is written here already knows most or all of this. At some point this kind of screed, in this kind of context, ceases to be any sort of education and just descends into an insidious form of self-congratulation.

  8. I agree. You are more an international socialist. A rare breed in this country. I imagine you are like Jeremy Corbyn, minus the beard maybe.

  9. So if there is an election and 90% support A and you prefer B, then we don’t really have a democracy?

    Either you win or the process is unfair and wrong?

  10. Of course. The real point here is that there is small class of people who always want to see the worst side of anything, or who make a habit of pissing on anything that is great about this country.

    Showing them a glass that is half full, and they will see one that is half empty, or complain that the beer comes from a country that employs child labour or hunt whales.

    The rest of us can take a day off.

  11. It does hurt, if the goal is to remedy injustice, to labor under the misapprehension that repeating the truth ad nauseum will result in some Great Awakening by The Masses. That is magical thinking that language in and of itself can change reality.

  12. Patti Smith and Burroughs were friends from the time that they met while both in NYC in the 1970s up until his death in 1997. I trust Smith’s judgement.

    Burroughs intersects the lineage during the 20th century that started with dada and ran through the beats, hippies up to the punks and some rap and he does it with unapologetic queerness during a time when that was not easy.

    Given the body count racked up by your precious left over the past century and a half, not all of it for legitimate or liberatory political reasons, Burroughs’ shortcomings are insignificant.

  13. Not sure what you mean about decline in Church/state power. If you mean decline in the power of the church and the state, I’d say no way has state power declined. With total surveillance, militarized police, and the rise of the school to prison pipeline, state power has surely increased in America. In the years since the Cuban revolution, America has become the world’s #1 prison state. Actually Church power has too. The Christian right has now taken over at least two branches of government.

    In Cuba, church power has absolutely declined -almost totally, I would say, and that has led to unprecedented sexual liberties and reproductive rights. In terms of sexual freedom, Cubans are much more free than Americans.

    Gay rights have advanced in Cuba too under Castro. And they never had Jim Crow to begin with. I was listening to KPFA the other day and they were taking about how the national guard was sent in to desegregate the University of Alabama. White liberals of the era praised this as an example of what a wonderful country this is -after all, what other country would send in the national guard to protect black students going to school? The answer to this bizarre view, of course is, what other country would NEED to?

    And no, actually Iran under the Shah was a US colony -not independent at all. The comparison to Iran right now is actually more apt. Very different economic systems for sure, but their “crimes” in the eyes of the United States are the same -both of them are truly independent governments.

    As far as voting rights for minorities, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the Voting Rights Act was just gutted by the Supreme Court. Doesn’t matter though. We’ve already perfected the disenfranchisement of all the people who we don’t want voting in other ways. We just throw them in prison for a while and then take away their voting rights for life, to name but one example.

    There are many kinds of freedoms… political freedom, sexual freedom, economic freedom (for workers, that is, not for bosses), free time (because what kind of freedom is it if you have to work three jobs to survive and don’t even have the freedom to call out sick, let alone take a much needed vacation?), workplace democracy, religious freedom (including the freedom to be an atheist without harassment or discrimination), among others.

    America has narrowed the definition of freedom to just one kind of freedom… and we’re not even very good at that one.

  14. There are hundreds of things that have moved forward in America because of our legal and democratic institutions since Castro came to power.

    Gay rights, voting rights for minorities, a decline in church/state power, abortion rights, free speech rights, the end of JIm Crow, etc… I think in general things are always getting better. There is the odd turn of events since 1959 where free speech is under siege from the fringe left as much as from the fringe right but we can hope that this turn of events is only for the short term.

    Cuba has self government in the same way that Iran under the Shah had self government.

  15. I don’t think Burroughs is on the left, he was claimed by the left more than he ever claimed it.

    I do appreciate some of his works, I do find much of it unreadable though. Naked Lunch and that sort of thing, unreadable.

    The people who attached themselves to him when I ran in those circles were usually destined for lesser things in life.

  16. “I agree that American presidents are a useless lot”

    No, they’re not “useless.” The customer service reps at PG&E are “useless.” American presidents are mass murderers, if you judge them by the same standards as Castro.

    “I’m not sure how that equates with a love of anti-democratic revolutionaries like Castro and Che.”

    No, not love. My feelings toward Castro are what I wrote. I wrote what I wrote. If I had meant to use the word “love,” I would have used the word “love.”

    “We should throw off 200 years of self government that can be changed
    through the constitution and elections, for an authoritarian government
    like what we can find in Cuba?”

    Cuba has self government too. At least since 1959, when the Cuban people overthrew the brutal US-backed Battista regime. As for elections, the Cuban people have about as much power to change the fundamental direction of economic and foreign policy through their elections, as the American people do in ours. The methods of control are different here. But power is held just as tightly, perhaps moreso.

  17. I agree that American presidents are a useless lot, I’m not sure how that equates with a love of anti-democratic revolutionaries like Castro and Che.

    We should throw off 200 years of self government that can be changed through the constitution and elections, for an authoritarian government like what we can find in Cuba?

    back in the day Castro was annoyed that he would be judged on the same terms as Pinochet

    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/1998/11/cas-n05.html

  18. “Greg” here makes the same case for defenders of Pinochet… “Everything worked out in the end”

    I assume this is an alternate reality Greg.

  19. If Castro is a “mass murderer,” then by that definition so is every single US president who ever lived. It’s easy to criticize leaders who your government says are Evil. Much harder to admit that your own country is, as Martin Luther King said, the “greatest purveyor of violence on earth.”

  20. There are good and bad mass murderers I suppose. “Greg” here makes the same case for defenders of Pinochet… “Everything worked out in the end”

    It is really hard for the left and right to say the dictators they love are bad. It’s easy to say as an outsider that Pinochet or Castro are bad, but it is rough to be a right winger or left winger to say “oops”

  21. Well he was no Dan White, but he still should’ve faced justice instead of acting like a coward, and somehow claiming redemption. That’s what I find most despicable. Hell, at least Dan White did the honorable thing -in the end I don’t think he could live with his conscience. William S Burroughs didn’t have one at all -a true sociopath if there ever was one.

  22. I don’t know about role models, but how are they mass murderers?

    The worst you can probably pin on Castro is that he executed about 500 members of former dictator Batista’s feared police force without trial, in the immediate wake of the revolution. I suppose it depends on what your definition of “mass” is, but
    at a time when right wing deaths squads were rounding up people and
    massacring them by the tens of thousands throughout Latin America, that
    stuff didn’t go on in Cuba.

    The context of the Cuban revolution was that the struggle for liberation was done under enormously difficult conditions, right under the nose of the most powerful empire on earth. My role models are democratic socialists in the tradition of Hugo Chavez and Salvador Allende. But if Castro had acted like Allende, he’d be dead a long time ago.

    In fact, in 1972, Castro visited Chile to a hero’s welcome. During that visit, he flat out told Allende that the US would not allow socialism to proceed democratically, and if Allende didn’t crack down on the fifth column collaborating with Richard Nixon’s economic war on the country, he would be overthrown.

    Castro was right.

  23. She did put the shot glass on her head and stood as he aimed, it was not like he forced her to do that and there is no indication that he intended to kill her. He was quite the marksman. They were fucked up and bad shit happened.

  24. meh. I’ve never been a fan of the beat “generation,” if three writers is a “generation.” A lot of it was just stream of consciousness jibberish. This “poem,” if it can be called that, is at least semi-coherent, but it still strikes me as the sort of thing that “tries to seem deep without putting in the effort,” in the words of Bansky (who’s been accused of that himself). It all purports to be so deep, but in the end, Amiri Baraka nailed it when he said,
    “The so-called Beat Generation was a whole bunch of people, of all
    different nationalities, who came to the conclusion that society
    sucked.”

    When you break it down, there’s really not much more to it than that.

    And I say all this as someone who may agree with some of their outlook on the world… things like non-conformity, questioning authority, sexual liberation, experimenting with drugs, etc. But there’s a certain nihilism to it, when you can do something like casually killing someone and then declare yourself redeemed through your writings. How is that any different than someone who spends their career murdering children for the military and then declares that they’re at peace with themselves because they accepted Jesus Christ as their lord and savior?

    William S Burroughs proves that the right does not have a monopoly on moral bankruptcy.

    That… and his “philosophy” is sophomoric rubbish.

  25. In the 80’s this was all old news in the suburb I grew up in, I suppose there are a few dozen people in the Bay Area that believe the hype.

    In the Bay Area there is more of a problem of people thinking Castro, Che and other mass murders are role models.

  26. I just hope it’s still smokeable.

    Seriously, though, it’s news for a lot of people. As long as the myth gets repeated, it doesn’t hurt to keep repeating the truth.

  27. Is anyone really celebrating the story of a boatload of Calvinists landing here and being desperate enough to befriend the naïvely reciprocal locals, and the ensuing successful harvest? (Much less celebrating the eventual disenfrachisement and genocides?) That’s not what Thanksgiving is about to anyone but a kindergartner in a school play.

    Nourishing our better natures may require us to acknowledge our sins, but hairshirt and ashes day in and day out is no way to progress.

  28. I agree that Burroughs with the murder thing was an atrocity and his later interesting antics do not make up for the murder, his take on the world and it’s verbiage are interesting.

  29. I prefer democracy. I wish we had it here.

    It’s not that I don’t love my country. I’m just not into this “my country right or wrong” attitude. Some holidays and traditions are good. Others, like celebrating the killing of Native Americans… not so much.

  30. Every time we have an election the dominant side wins. It is called democracy. Sounds like you prefer a different system where the winner is not decided by dominance but rather by whatever you happen t think is right.

    Good luck with that.

    I’m not angry at all. I love my country and its holidays and traditions. Sounds like you are the one with the bitterness problem

  31. You confuse dominance with validity. The two are not the same. History is a collection of lies that the dominant powers all agree on.

    But who’s angry? I’m happy to have the day off. Sounds like you’re the angry one.

  32. Horsecrap. The thing about a dominant paradigm is that it is, er. dominant. Meaning that it is far more popular and credible than other ideas like, er, say, yours.

    These holidays are for friends, family, food, fun, drink, sports and letting go. But no, you have to drag us all down with your ideological warfare and war on fun, for no reason other than that you never, ever know when to for once let go.

    But hey, what do I care? Be angry and bitter tomorrow about Thanksgiving being a vast right-wing conspiracy. Invite Tommi round for a pity party and some recreational resentment.

    I’ll be cracking some beers and giving thanks that I have the freedom and liberty that you hate.

  33. What I mean is not that the day off is ideological, but the holiday is. There is a mythology that is baked in, which is ideological. It’s such a pervasive, dominant ideology, that you don’t see it. It’s just the way it is for you. But it’s still ideological, and if you take a step out of your own ideological box, you can see it. Of course it’s difficult to take that step.

  34. No, it’s weird. If the first thing you think of when someone mentions Thanksgiving or Columbus Day is oppression of a bunch of unrelated people centuries ago, then that tells us far more about your hyper-sensitivity than it does about a day of leisure and celebration.

    It’s the same negativity Redmond feels when he sees new homes being built that are 40% affordable. Instead of rejoicing in those subsidized homes, his first thought is anger at some affluent people moving here.

    Lighten up. It’s a holiday.

  35. William S Burroughs, of course, killed his wife in Mexico in a drunken attempt at playing William Tell. Instead of facing justice, he fled the country to avoid jail for manslaughter. Then he had the audacity to claim, in a fit of self-serving sophistry, that writing somehow redeemed his vile act.

    “I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would have never become
    a writer but for Joan’s death and to the realization of the extent to
    which this event has motivated and formulated my writing…I have no
    choice except to write my way out.”

    Bullshit. Pseudo-intellectual solipsism. Notice the passive voice distancing language to avoid responsibility. No, she didn’t “die.” No, you cannot “write your way out” of the fact that you murdered your wife. And no, killing someone and fleeing justice doesn’t make you a writer. The guy sounds like a narcissist and a coward.

  36. There’s no such thing as “just holidays.” The ideology is already baked into the cake. If you’re denying that there’s an ideology, you’re just saying that you accept the dominant ideology.

  37. “30% of the food Americans buy at the local grocery store or even at the food coop gets tossed out” – USDA

    Yeah – so EAT those avocado seeds & skins, carrot tops and celery leaves, potato eyes and broccoli stalks (the core is good), those turkey bones and grizzle parts, cookie boxes & cello wrap … .

    And then there is the stuff that ostensibly is edible but doesn’t get eaten. I wonder what percentage THAT is?

  38. Holidays are just holidays. There is no need to inject them with political ideology but rather that they represent days when he can put all that baggage aside

  39. The myth celebrates what we want to believe; it’s how we remember our putative values and hopefully try to live up to them. Of course it’s important for adults to acknowledge the historical truth as well, but that doesn’t have to mean discarding the symbolic altogether. If someone is inspired by the myths of Thanksgiving or Santa Claus to go volunteer at a soup kitchen or donate to a food/toy drive, then those myths have some actual value beyond telling ourselves lies about how virtuous we are.

    Now Columbus Day on the other hand… Columbus Day can go fuck itself.

  40. Since I have never read a book, seen a documentary, or even picked up a magazine at the check out line this is all news to me. Please don’t rain in my parade Chris, because of this Vice sourced article I must wallow in angst ridden self reflection for the next four or five days. Perhaps I can crawl out of my basement, in the coming days, perhaps not.

  41. News alert Thanksgiving is BS, much like all traditions. Get over it, buy a Bud eat too much and watch the game, you never know life might appear not so bad just for one day

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