Monday, November 17, 2014
The War On Thanksgiving
For years now conservative media figures like Bill O'Reilly have been driving up ratings and getting their gray haired followers agitated over a supposed "War on Christmas." These assertions have come at a time when the Christmas shopping season creeps closer and closer to October. The day after Halloween this year I was already having my ears assaulted by treacly holiday music. (Of course, O'Reilly and crew are really pining for a time when Christians could dominate the public sphere with school Christmas pageants and the like, non-Christians be damned.)
There is a holiday that is having war committed upon it, and that holiday is Thanksgiving. It is, in my opinion, our nation's greatest holiday tradition. It is a day for family, for feasting, for reflection, and to combat the coming of fearsome winter with joy and good feeling. It is perhaps our most bullshit-free and welcoming holiday. While "thanksgiving" has religious roots, the holiday itself is not affiliated with a particular religion, or even theism. All can fully take part, unlike with Christmas, Easter, Passover, Eid, etc. There is no Thanksgiving shopping season, no twenty somethings dressed in "sexy" costumes, no people puking green beer or engaging in jingoistic nationalism.
But the war on Thanksgiving is plain to see, and that war is being waged by Black Friday, capitalism's Walpurgisnacht. That orgy of consumerist frenzy has now invaded Thanksgiving, with several retailers opening their door and turning a day for family and reflection into a disgusting exercise of our country's least attractive values. It is a war in that Black Friday is not only taking hours from Thanksgiving, it is undermining its very value system. Our capitalist Moloch does not profit from family time, does not profit from a quiet day of contemplation, does not profit from the cherished stillness of that blessed day. (As a child it seemed that there was no other day of the year so peaceful as Thanksgiving.) It profits from people trampling each other to buy Xboxes.
But where are the prophets who toss their jeremiads against the dishonor done to Christmas? Where are these paragons of "traditional values" when the holiday that most embodies traditional values is being eviscerated? They are nowhere to be seen, because these charlatans are actually in league with capital, the greatest enemy and destroyer of traditional society, that bloody force that seeks to turn every human interaction into a vulgar cash transaction.
I am a man of the Left, but I believe some traditions like Thanksgiving are important because they help preserve our humanity. There is a war being fought against Thanksgiving, as there is against any human activity that is not a form of buying and selling, and it is time to realize it, and also what's really behind it.