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