Thanksgiving Hypocrisy

Stephen Lendman

Posted Nov 16, 2007      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Thanksgiving Hypocrisy

by Stephen Lendman

In the US, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth
Thursday of November to give thanks for the year’s
blessings and bounty. At least that’s how it began.
It’s not, however, the current practice. Most people
defile the day’s spirit in how they spend it over a
full four day holiday weekend - with overindulgent
eating, parades, “can’t miss” football from Thursday
through Sunday, and, key for merchants, the “official”
start of the Christmas holiday shopping season. It
begins Thanksgiving Friday, is now an orgy of holiday
consumerism, continues through Christmas eve, ebbs for
a day, then builds again for a final celebratory new
year’s welcome with more overindulgent eating,
drinking, partying, and binge-shopping for

This holiday, like all others, is also replete with
myths, and young minds are filled with them. They’re
taught the Pilgrims invited Native Indians to share
their bounty in a show of brotherhood and friendship
with an array of foods early settlers never heard of
that were indigenous to the Americas and introduced to
them by Native peoples. The Pilgrims had nothing to do
with this tradition. It began with Eastern Indians
observing fall harvest celebrations centuries before
the first settlers arrived. After they did, there was
no such observance as “Thanksgiving.”

While George Washington had days for national
thanksgiving, modern holiday celebrations date from
the Civil War in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln wanted a
way to boost morale and patriotic fervor of the Union
Army. His idea was to proclaim a national Thanksgiving
holiday for the first time ever. It had nothing to do
with the Pilgrims nor were they ever mentioned until
1890, and the term Pilgrim was never even used until
the 1870s. So much for tradition and what passes for
history that, in fact, is pure myth.

The Thanksgiving holiday is also a way to promote what
Edward Herman calls our “indispensable state,” our
innate goodness and the illusion of American
exceptionalism, moral and cultural superiority, and
the belief that the Almighty made us special the way
ideological Zionists feel Jews are “the chosen
people.” It’s a short step from these views to judging
others inferior, especially those ranked low in the
racial, religious, ethnic or cultural pecking order -
blacks, Latinos, and today’s number one target of
choice for a nation at war and an enemy needed to
justify it - Muslims hatefully portrayed as “radicals,
extremists, gunmen, insurgents,” and “Islamofascists.”

Thanksgiving also serves another purpose. It has
special religious significance in a nation with
three-fourths of the population Christian, and the
traditional separation of church and state now
weakened. The US was founded as a secular state, and
First Amendment constitutional law affirms it stay
that way with freedom of religion guaranteed. In 1802,
Jefferson called for a “wall of separation” between
them, and earlier Supreme Courts agreed. They ruled
this separation is required to prohibit any state
religion and require government avoid undue religious
involvement, its trappings or expressions. That’s now
changed under radicalized right wing rule.

Today, the extremist Christian Right jeopardizes
religious freedom with frightening implications to
consider. Their movement became dominant in the Reagan
1980s and reemerged even more virulently under George
Bush. It’s close to the seat of power with ideologues
like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell while he was living,
James Dobson, and radical Zionist Muslim hate-preacher
John Hagee having enormous influence on the
administration and Congress.

Religious freedom was jeopardized by the introduction
of the “Constitution Restoration Act of 2004” that was
reintroduced in near-identical form in 2005. So far
it’s gone nowhere, but if introduced again and adopted
in the 110th or a later Congress, it would turn the US
into a de facto theocracy even though its supporters
deny that intent. Don’t believe them. 

Dominionists like Pat Robertson and others support the
bill as do influential sponsoring members of both
Houses. Their goal is simple, but they won’t admit it
- tear down the sacred wall between between church and
state so the US can be governed by their extremist
Christian dogma. It would make believers of other
faiths, or none at all, lawbreakers with their version
of Christian canon the new law of the land - a very
scary prospect for about 75 million non-Christians in
the country and many of Christian faith who won’t go

If it’s ever adopted, this bill will prevent the
Supreme Court from challenging the right of anyone in
or affiliated with federal, state or local government
to affirm “God as the sovereign source of law,
liberty, or government” - an extremist Christian God,
that is. Any judge at any level interpreting the law
otherwise would henceforth be subject to impeachment
and prosecution in the new USA ruled by the empowered
Pat Robertson types in it. It would also likely make
Thanksgiving an obligatory Christian observance, even
for non-Christians, and make its religious overtones

As it’s now celebrated, Thanksgiving is already
shameful. While barely giving thanks, if at all, we
forget millions of poor, deprived and oppressed
peoples everywhere and our government’s role in their
condition. We also ignore the systematic dismantling
of our constitutional rights and denial of essential
social services to growing millions without them. And
we’re too distracted by bread, circuses and
overindulgence to oppose injustice and support the
rights and needs of people everywhere.

This day and others should be times of reflection,
thanks and much more. Blessings aren’t given. They’re
earned and just as easily lost when rogue leaders
threaten our freedoms, and democracy is an illusion.
But it’s not something new. Our tradition is long and
disturbing with conflict, violence, and our framers
design that the “supreme Law of the Land” give
government unlimited power, the Executive unchecked
amounts of it, and “we the people” meant only the
privileged. It’s pure fantasy thinking we have limited
government, constitutionally constrained and one of,
by and for the people. Look at the record.

Along with war, militarism, expansionism and free
market fundamentalism, we’re a nation addicted to
privilege. It’s always been this way despite our
prevailing fiction of an egalitarian country
respecting everyone’s rights. That’s nonsense in a
nation glorifying wealth and power and those with it
claiming a divine right for more.

It’s always been that way and especially since WW II
when the US emerged unchallenged as the world’s only
superpower. Since then we’ve had imperial wars,
CIA-instigated coups, political assassinations, and
disdain for the law to defend unfettered capitalism
from beneficial social change. On November 22, we
should do more than give thanks. We should ask for
forgiveness and demand accountability.

Journalism Professor Robert Jensen is right calling
for a “No Thanks to Thanksgiving” in his earlier
writing. He suggests we’d be hugely uplifted by
replacing our overindulgent “white supremicist”
Thanksgiving ritual with a “National Day of Atonement”
and have it include self-reflective fasting for our
forefathers’ “original sin” no matter where our own
came from. Establishing that tradition would be an
important step forward - toward a day to give thanks
every day in a land with leaders resolved never to
repeat the crimes of the past and equally committed to
public service instead of just for the elite part of

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
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