Deleted Scenes: Thanksgiving

I was going to write this week’s column about those children out in California at UC Davis who got pepper-sprayed for, uh, existing, and it was going to be a big long rant about how people should be throwing Molotov cocktails at the cops and meet violence with violence, blah, blah, blah, but basically, I’m too afraid at this point that such diatribes will be seen as inciting actions against the enforcement tools of the wealthiest class (i.e. the police) and someone will launch a drone strike on Aquarian headquarters, so we’ll do Thanksgiving instead. Here goes:

I’m thankful for my wife. I’m thankful for my little dog Dio. I’m thankful I have a job where I go to work—sometimes staying later than I’d prefer, but still—and don’t hate myself for being there. No worries, there’s plenty of other stuff to hate myself for, but catch me in the right light, and I’m thankful for some of that too.

Don’t get me wrong, Thanksgiving is totally fucked as a holiday. It’s a vile celebration of the colonial cruelty on which this country was founded, and if you’re a vegetarian or vegan or just someone mindful of the awful things that happen to animals between their being born and their being plated, a source of no little inconvenience, unnecessary scrutiny, and having to explain to your friends and family why you need separate gravy from everyone else.

It’s got its flaws, but they all do. Christmas is an exclusionary celebration of a slave doctrine. Memorial Day and Veterans Day promote war culture. Labor Day is little more than a reminder of the piss-poor esteem in which advocates for workers’ rights are held. Mothers Day, Fathers Day and Valentine’s Day commodify familial and romantic love. I don’t even like celebrating my own birthday because, when it comes down to it, what’s the accomplishment there? Another year? So what?

But in terms of how the holiday is celebrated, Thanksgiving is probably the most tolerable of all. It’s uniquely American, but with hardly a fraction of the jingoism of Independence Day, and the idea of togetherness is at the core. It’s not about my god is better than your god, or my country is better than your country, or any of that. It’s a feast for you and your loved ones and an opportunity to reflect on how lucky you are to have them.

I look at Thanksgiving the same way I look at Michelangelo’s Pietà and a lot of religious-based art: It’s something beautiful that came out of something destructive. The children of American colonialists have inherited the legacy of the genocide of this country’s native population, and it’s one of the worst genocides ever enacted by one group of human beings on another (though, to be fair, that’s kind of like saying the Pacific is one of the world’s wettest oceans; all genocides are the worst), but there’s turkey, there’s stuffing, there’s mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce shaped like tin cans, and all the rest of it. Something worthwhile came out of all that horror.

And while I’m not going to say the balance is right, or fair, or that it was worth all that slaughter so we could be here in 2011 to wind up on the wrong side of a floundering empire, but at some point, don’t you have to make the most of what you have? That’s how I look at Thanksgiving. We’re all screwed, just waiting for that giant asteroid to come relieve us of our wretched ideas about infinity, but there’s beauty in the world too, and it’s worth recognizing that, if only until the next morning when the misery of our consumer culture takes hold and people get trampled outside of Wal-Mart at 5 a.m.

We don’t have to think about that, though. For one evening, we can have a bit of wine, way too much food (in the American tradition), and although we can still be mindful of the kids getting maced for sitting on the sidewalk at UC Davis, or of the wars happening around the world, or the reasons these things are happening, we can acknowledge too that sometimes there’s a flipside to that coin, however momentary it might be.

So I’m thankful for the above. I’m thankful for wine, since now that I’ve mentioned it I want a glass. I’m thankful for Black Sabbath, thankful for having all my limbs, for my car, and for a ton of other stuff that I’ll be thinking about this week. Things could be better—and probably should, in a lot of cases—but if I can take a little time out each year to recognize that they could also be worse, that’s cool too.

Happy Thanksgiving,

JJ Koczan