God I love this day. Been looking forward to it all week. Moist, delicious roast turkey, spiral-sliced honey-baked ham, garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie with freshly whipped cream--how could someone not love Thanksgiving?
Living in the Bay Area and having been part of the often insular, but nonetheless fascinating, world of radical activism for the past several years, I've learned how to navigate the sometimes-unpleasant waters of Thanksgiving politics. First, there is the fact that Thanksgiving represents, for some, the ironic celebration of 'friendship' between white European settlers and the friendly Native Americans who fed them and taught them how to survive in the wilderness, only to be almost completely wiped out over the next several centuries by those same settlers (or their descendants, at least). So, for those who want to 'celebrate' Thanskgiving (or 'Thanks-taking', as some call it) Day that way, there is the Sunrise Ceremony held annually on Alcatraz Island. The Island--aside from its history as a notoriously vicious prison back in the day--was the site of a dramatic (and somewhat successful) protest in the 1970 by American Indians, making it the perfect setting for this 'Unthanksgiving' Day celebration.
I've been to the Sunrise Ceremony once and it was very interesting. From the chilly creepiness of 'The Rock' (one of Alcatraz' nicknames) at 5am to the heartbeat-like drumming of the Native people opening the ceremony to the speeches by Native elders that often reminded me of those I've heard at political rallies, it was truly a study in contradiction and chaos. I highly recommend going at least once in your lifetime--that is, if you support Native peoples' sovreignty.
Personally, I don't celebrate Thanksgiving to commemorate the Native peoples solidarity with white Europeans. Come on, folks, they were largely masssacred and disenfranchised by them, why should we celebrate a brief time of peace and friendship--which white people then turned around on Native folks so that they could take their land and their culture away from them? No, I don't celebrate the traditional Thanksgiving way.
To me, Thanksgiving is just another version of the age-old harvest festival that is celebrated in cultures all over the world. Whether you call it the Harvest Moon festival in China or the Yam Festival in West Africa or Holi in India, harvest festivals have been part of human civilization for countless generations, when we come together to celebrate another gathering of crops for food, thank the Spirits for our abundance and prosperity, and EAT!
So that's what I'm doing today, folks--giving thanks for all the blessings I have in my life, hanging out with family and friends, cooking some yummy food, and eating 'til my heart's (and my tummy's) content.
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