I’m not in a very thankful mood this year.
Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States is a patriotic holiday. The narrative goes that the first Americans – that is, Massachusetts Pilgrims – survived their first year with agricultural advice from natives. The Pilgrims celebrated their harvest with a festive meal to which they invited their helpful neighbors. Some 200 years later, at the beginning of the great American agriculture boom and a time of acute social fractures, a harvest festival that coincidentally celebrated national fraternity and good will was thought to be a timely idea. So Thanksgiving Day was declared.
Who doesn’t like a holiday, especially one that tends to extend a weekend to four days?
But I think I’ll pass on Thanksgiving again this year. Here’s why:
1.America is closer to civil war than at any time since 1865.
2.American patriotism is linked to American militarism.
3.American values are being trashed in behalf of political ambition.
4.The American Thanksgiving narrative is a fiction.
5.The second reason for Thanksgiving (family reunions) doesn’t apply to me here outside of America with only Thai family nearby.
6.Nostalgia food here in Chiang Mai is generally disappointing and very over-priced.
I don’t want to debate these matters. I don’t want to dampen anybody’s celebration. I’m going to be gloomy about America, tucked into the end of our valley without making a fuss. I’m under no illusions that we are free from danger here. My withdrawal from the turkey dinner table is not about escaping.
Here, we have just cremated the national unifier and are now without one. Militarism has again been re-installed into the constitution with Army generals running the government. Disputing national narratives can get you imprisoned for decades – far longer than, say, murdering your spouse. Social structure is crumbling as people turn to salary-values over community-values. Religion is systematically appropriated to validate national matters but never allowed to hold anyone accountable.
This is a place where the weather is pretty good but everything else is fairly tenuous. I don’t expect things to fall into chaos either here or in the USA. But the big players on both sides of the ocean talk about building stronger cultural compositions while they are pulling pieces out of their Jenga structures at such a reckless rate I just don’t feel like turkey and pumpkin pie this year.
[Thanks to Andrew Dobson for the picture of Buzz Ullrich playing Jenga.]
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.