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A Few Words On Thanksgiving

We all know the American myth of Thanksgiving: Pilgrims and natives feasting together, the natives having helped the Pilgrims survive.

We all know what came afterwards; the land theft, the blankets sick with smallpox, the ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Some years ago, I wrote a Thanksgiving post called “The Silver Lining of Thanksgiving Past.” I had done some research on the betrayal of the natives by the Pilgrims and found something interesting: the Pilgrims at that feast had opposed the evil done of the natives, some to such an extent they were excommunicated, a big deal in that time and at that place. It was new immigrants from England who, not remembering the help given by the natives, who had pushed thru the evil done against them. To these newcomers, the natives were pagan savages, but to those who knew them well and had feasted with them, they were friends and allies.

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So much has happened since then; so much evil and degradation. But perhaps when enjoying your Thanksgiving, remember the real spirit of it, that even at cost to themselves, the Pilgrims the natives helped tried to protect them.

Even if they failed, it matters that they tried, and is worth remembering.

Thanksgiving should be about the good things we are grateful for, even small ones In particular this year I’m glad that coffee shops are open again and that I’ve gotten back to reading books every day.

If there’s anything that’s been good for you this year you’d like to share, drop it in the comments.



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  1. Plague Species

    I’m thankful McDonald Trump isn’t POTUS any longer although I’m not thankful Joe Biden is. It seems for everything for which I am thankful, there is an at least equal and opposite thing to be unthankful for.

    Thanksgiving these days is overshadowed by Christmas. It’s being usurped by Christmas. People in these parts have had their Christmas decorations up for two weeks. It’s nuts.

    I am thankful that many will not receive their Christmas presents this year because of supply issues. That makes me happy happy. The Grinch is right. Holidays are about consuming and waste. They are celebrations of excess. Celebrations of ecocide.

  2. Astrid

    I am thankful to be married to a rather wonderful person. Not quite perfect (though surprisingly close) but never for a moment since we started dating, did I ever want to be with anyone else. I am thankful to have enough money to not stress about it. I am thankful for us having more time to calmly think and read and relax than any non-retired person we know. I am thankful for getting to spend more time with my parents while they put their globetrotting on hiatus. I am thankful for another year of bountiful vegetables harvest despite a lot of neglect after May, with over 100 lbs of tasty winter squash sitting on my counter and probably another 100 lbs given away. I am thankful that we are healthy and our close family and friends are largely doing well and healthy.

    Yet, despite all that, I am also thankful that I subscribe to a belief system that this is my only go around and there’s no after. I am…tired.

  3. Trinity

    I’m thankful I have a job, and a good one, and an interesting one. Eighteen months ago I might have been out on the street, along with all the other 50-somethings looking for work. I’m thankful for a roof over my head, and enough food to eat. I try to take nothing for granted these days.

    I’m thankful for my son, who works very hard, too.

    And I’m thankful for all of you, every single one of you. You’ve made me laugh often, helped me keep perspective, not feel quite so alone, and especially, most importantly, to think.

  4. anon y'mouse

    i am thankful for Ian’s blog, even though i only raise my ugly mug here to complain when things appear to flip into hatred and ruin the exchange of true minds. well, hopefully true minds as we are probably all dogs on the internet.
    hopefully, those complaints are taken in the spirit in which they are intended.
    thank you, Ian. if the other guests are not always hospitable and enlightening, at least the host is.

  5. Trinity

    An article from Truthout with more details on the truth of Thanksgiving:

    Just want to note that the Native Americans were aware of the problems of European greed, but some tribes didn’t suffer from this themselves, until the arrival. Hmmmmm, I wonder why? And how did that contribute to their long tenure, and how does that relate to their skill in land management?

    I’m thankful that their knowledge still exists, even if only in part.

  6. restive

    “You have to reduce the American experience to a few ridiculously grim variables, and remove everything from movies to rock n’ roll to monster drunks to spend today sulking.”

  7. Keith in Modesto

    I’m thankful I can spend an hour or two baking cookies to share with my friends at work or with my D&D gaming group.

  8. Eric F

    Thanks Ian, for being unafraid to leaven some nuance into the unremitting grimness that is North American political life in the 21st century.

    Nathaniel Philbrick’s “Mayflower” is a good telling of the story as you have it.

    My Thankfulness list will sound much like Astrid’s – thanks Astrid. Except I don’t have as much squash on the porch.

    Also, I’m thankful that my little group of friends has been able to (cautiously) resume dancing Tango with each other. There is no more human act than dancing close with each other, and once one gets fully hooked as my wife and I have, it is very very hard to go without it. So I’m grateful that we can again, never mind the reasons – this is just how it is.

    On a similar note, I’m thankful that we finally got to the beach this last summer, and that I can still catch a wave. Body surfing is like dancing, but your partner is the ocean. This isn’t an experience that one is likely to forget, having done it, but a refresher is very good.

    Thanks all here for keeping up the conversation.

  9. I am thankful that they now make 2 1/2 gallon ziploc bags. That’s quite useful especially when you’re living out of your car. OK, I have a ‘share’ of a hostel, which allows us 2 bags, each, in a room for 6. But the car is the storage center, which makes this particular hostel stay viable. No way I could fit everything into 2 bags.
    I’m also thankful that the new VA governor seems serous about no vaccine mandates and no mask mandates. If I have to return to NJ, it’ll be easier to escape into VA than FL when Murphy eventually goes Australia/Austria on NJ citizens.

  10. Troy

    Matt Taibbi’s latest piece, “Thanksgiving is Awesome” is a largely disorientating work. It’s also quite dishonest.

    I think he was trying to make the point that American history is largely over, and that Americans should not “feel ashamed” of their history toward Native Americans anymore, which, largely basing it on recent history, is hardly true. That as Faulkner put it: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past”. American genocide of Native Americans is still ongoing.

    He attempts to portray Zinn’s description of Columbus (and other American historical figures) as somehow dishonest, without mentioning Zinn merely based his portrayals on actual historical documents. Zinn’s sources are in the book. Taibbi never attempts to discredit those because he can’t. It’s impossible. People in Columbus’ time wrote about what he did, and he died a pariah for those actions.

    Finally, what Native Americans want is not for Americans to feel “ashamed”. As the meme floating around states: we instead want you to dismantle the system that robbed us of our wealth and keeps us impoverished and that the rich and powerful still benefit from.

  11. Ché Pasa

    No, no sulking on Thanksgiving. More a kind of wonder at how we got to this point. We had our ritual feast but just among ourselves and the animals, family being scattered too far and friends not inclined to get-togethers since the onset of the pandemic. Hi, and virtual waves and ecards sent through the ether will have to suffice for now.

    The feast included winter squash grown on the property; the beans have already been eaten and the blue corn is dried and set to be ground for atole and corn meal come January or maybe sooner. A grinding mill is on our Christmas shopping list, probably the only thing this year.

    We’ve checked on neighbors. They’re doing OK despite all. They, like we, have enough and we’re grateful for it. If we or they didn’t have something needful, we’d share. But so far, we’re doing all right.

    Our prepped turkey along with mashed potatoes and gravy and cranberry relish and pie came from the grocery store: the last they had for the holiday. It was a blessing not to have to cook the day away. Fixings and dressing and a big heaping salad (no arugula — can’t get that out here; the avocados weren’t ripe either) and biscuits were our contributions. It was nice. And the weather has been spectacular (too dry, tho).

    We discussed our long, strange journey to where we are and imbibed some of the reflections on Thanksgiving from Native perspectives featured on the public broadcast teevee. Ms. Ché, after all, is Native (Cherokee as it happens) and understands quite well how bizarre the Thanksgiving Mythos is given the facts of the matter. Not all Natives by any means are hostile to the holiday, just to the myths surrounding it. The holiday most Americans celebrate may come from an obscure and latterly genocidal British religious cult, but Natives have long had their own versions pretty much universal among them and celebrated far more often than once a year. Just ditch the Pilgrim and Woo-woop Indian garb, and the core of gratitude for whatever one has and cares for shines through.

    That includes the smallish but tight community with Ian here. My online presence is much reduced from years ago, so I’m grateful for the smaller circle of virtual friends and acquaintances here and for Ian’s patient hosting of a virtual salon while providing plenty of thoughts, ideas and ideals to cogitate on.

    Carry on…

  12. restive

    Troy –

    “I think he was trying to make the point that American history is largely over, and that Americans should not “feel ashamed” of their history toward Native Americans anymore, which, largely basing it on recent history, is hardly true.”

    No. His point was that our picture of our national history has swung between extremes. Before Zinn our history portrayed us as angels. Since Zinn we have swung the other way. His point was that the truth is somewhere in the middle and there are some good things about the country along with the bad stuff.

    The topic as Ian posed for this thread is to talk about things we are grateful for. I linked to Taibbi’s piece because that is what he did when he reminded us that we have things like movies and rock n’ roll.

    The topic for the thread is things we are grateful for, and if you have anything you are grateful for that you would like to share, that would be great.

  13. Trinity

    “we instead want you to dismantle the system that robbed us of our wealth and keeps us impoverished and that the rich and powerful still benefit from.”

    This is now true for many of us. If you’ve drawn a wage or salary in the last 30-odd years, you’ve been robbed, and many have been, continue to be impoverished. Many died from the Sackler’s lies, many still suffer from the ongoing lies and obfuscations on finance, covid, tech, even history itself. The history of the US and the Native Americans is nothing but lies and outright theft. Nothing has changed except that the restrictions have all been lifted and the insane again operate with impunity.

    I don’t mean to diminish what the Native Americans are saying, the horrors they’ve had to endure, or anything they’ve been through, I’m saying with each passing year we realize we are experiencing similar effects. Same aim, different century?

    So what they are asking for is also what we all want? I’ve made it clear here that I would much rather live under a regime that is focused on being the best stewards of natural resources over the long term, instead of the short term focused, insane greed, divisiveness, and useless competition we currently endure. I can imagine a world without psychopaths, it’s a world with much less drama, murder, and mayhem (and some might even find that too boring, given how we’ve been deliberately addicted to drama and excitement).

    The real problem, of course, is who is the “you” who will dismantle the current system.

  14. Willy

    I’m thankful for Project Farm, the YouTube channel where Todd tests “all sorts of things, from tools to automotive products, to help viewers make informed purchasing decisions and to avoid getting ripped off”. He does so in the most impartial and common sensically scientific ways which his budget and ingenuity allows.

    It’d be Christmas for me if he expanded to testing major products, drugs, industries, politicians, religions and political ideologies. But I suspect that somewhere there’s a step too far for those in the business of ripping us off, where Todd might get disappeared.

  15. Troy

    > No. His point was that our picture of our national history has swung between extremes. Before Zinn our history portrayed us as angels. Since Zinn we have swung the other way. His point was that the truth is somewhere in the middle and there are some good things about the country along with the bad stuff.

    Zinn was an academic and historian, as well as an activist. However, his tone is always professional, and he defends himself from such attacks as Taibbi’s from beyond the grave. On page 9 of _A People’s History_, Zinn argues:

    “My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all)—that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth. We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in most respectable of classrooms and textbooks.”

    This is hardly “the rantings of a mental patient” (Taibbi, seventh or thereabouts paragraph). It’s a staid historical tone, and Zinn’s laid out his argument point by point in his book. He’s listed his sources. Has Taibbi dug up a mental patients’ writings and compared it to Zinn’s? I doubt it.

    In fact, Zinn’s objective was, “to try to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawalks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen by the New York Irish” (pg. 10). Works of history prior to Zinn really don’t take this tack, this perspective. Some did but much of the “peoples’ history” was largely ignored. That this “version” of history isn’t some indication that academia has somehow gone “too far” but rather that history prior never went far enough. Zinn’s book helped historians discover that there was history in everything and everyone, and so much of it to be discovered, or considering it is history, rediscovered, and interpreted, and presented.

    “We’ve lost touch with our real story, which is about us, not the centuries-old adventures of toffs in wigs. The Founding Fathers may have been scum, but they didn’t just steal a continent from the indigenous residents, they stole one from a British King, which is, come on, hilarious” (Fifth paragraph from bottom).

    Honestly, this is a stupid argument. Taibbi’s out of his depth by this point. However, it is incredibly illustrative of what Native Americans have to face when arguing their points in the court of public opinion. It isn’t about winning or losing but about overcoming the attitude of dismissal.

    What’s more, is Native Americans win in court and in public opinion anyway, not because of, well, whatever reason Taibbi is arguing for, but because they’re better historians. Tribes keep their own records, and they keep records going back decades and even hundreds of years because technically, they’re still in opposition to these settler states of America and Canada. America and Canada’s only recourse is to stack their own courts, and barring that, try to stop court cases ever going to trial. Delay, deflect, and deny. But they lose, step by step, because of proponents such as Taibbi for dismissing entire sections of history.

    Honestly, it was a stupid article. Taibbi created a strawman—which Zinn himself had already countered—and lost, badly. Furthermore, Native Americans also eat turkey on Thanksgiving. Not because they’re thankful for anything. It’s just an excuse to get together and enjoy a meal with others. But they’re already preparing for their next trial, and their next victory. And when suddenly Oklahomans wake up and realize half their state was given back to the American Indians of their state, what happens? They get mad, never realizing they lost the state decades ago because they were never taught much of their state was stolen land.

    Furthermore, Taibbi really hasn’t built an actual strawman. Rather, he’s grasping at straws in an attempt to build one. He tried for raconteurian tone but ended up writing a thoughtless contrarian screed based on nothing more than distorted twenty year memories of a history textbook, which in terms of actual historical value is merely a primer level. It’s a good introduction for high school grade 12/university first year history courses. However, real, actual history isn’t textbooks. Rather, history textbooks are nothing more than tools to teach people how to _do_ history. Zinn taught people to look beyond the writings of “important” people and to go beyond. Look at the journal entries of someone’s diary discovered on a forgotten bookcase in someone’s unopened attic. Dig up the old articles of a newspaper long forgotten by a township that hasn’t had a newspaper for five decades. That’s the postmodern version of history. That there’s history everywhere. That we’re all history, and that all our voices are worth hearing. That was Zinn’s intent. And for Taibbi to misrepresent Zinn’s intentions is the height of dishonesty.

  16. Troy

    > The topic as Ian posed for this thread is to talk about things we are grateful for. I linked to Taibbi’s piece because that is what he did when he reminded us that we have things like movies and rock n’ roll.

    > The topic for the thread is things we are grateful for, and if you have anything you are grateful for that you would like to share, that would be great.

    If Ian felt that my comment was too OT, he could’ve kept my comment in moderation or simply deleted it. His post simply prompted me to write about something else that had been on my mind which was somewhat related to the topic posted. That’s it.

  17. Ian Welsh

    I did let the comments thru, yes, as I had mentioned the evil done to the natives.

    Let’s keep it polite. I don’t think there’s much question that Columbus, in particular, was a profoundly evil man. It’s also true that while America’s history includes tons of evil, there have been good things as well. As for Taibbi’s career, there’ll be an Open Thread up tomorrow, so if you want to discuss it, that’d be a good place.

  18. js

    Taibbi probably gets a lot of people reading the article just because they don’t want to think about politics on thanksgiving.

    I mean suppose you lived in a country that had no guaranteed sick time (but maybe you got it or not), no guaranteed vacation time (but maybe you got it or not), no paid family leave (and who knows if there will ever be), fewer national holidays than the vast majority of other countries. And yet …. you somehow got a day off to spend with family and/or friends with the theme of enjoying food, company, and being grateful (and if you were lucky you even got off the day after too making an unheard of 4 day weekend). And then you were told instead you should spend the day reflecting on your guilt for what some white people did long ago, and thinking about all the injustices in the world instead, and thinking about politics which is a topic everyone kind of hates even if they force themselves to be politically active. Yea you would be like F that too. But of course bad things were done. And of course everything that has happened in the U.S. isn’t evil (and I think much of our government is evil, but even then, if I thought the government could only do evil I’d be a libertarian).

  19. Stirling Newberry

    Stephen Sondheim Is Dead at 91

  20. different clue

    Things I am thankful for: I still have parts of my good health. I have good memories of past Thanksgiving family gatherings.

    Now that I am older and have no family close enough to get to Thanksgiving gatherings with, how do I have fun? I ask co-workers whether they use the final-leftover turkey carcass to make soup and stock and so forth with. Some people still do. But if they tell me that they simply just throw the final carcass away anyway, I ask if they can bring it in for me instead. Some of them remember to bring it in for me.

    What do I do with my brought-in carcasses? I steam them for stock myself. Then I remove any and all meat shreds with my surgical food tools. Then I simmer them some more. Then I set the good flavored stock aside. Then I pressure cook the bones until they are soft enough to break up into pieces with hammers and pliers. Then I pressure cook the pieces until they are soft enough to crush and grind into turkey bone paste. Then I extract whatever solubes I can out of the turkey bone paste and I throw the final irreducible bone-sand residue out into my garden. And mix the turkey-bone extract back into the good flavored stock to have an even more mineral-rich and smooth-mouthfeel stock product. Which I then cook with in smaller doses over time.

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