The Anti-Thanksgiving

Ive been known in the past as something of a Thanksgiving curmudgeon. For one thing, the historical events commemorated by the holiday are personally distasteful to me. I am uncomfortable celebrating the survival of a group of people whose very presence in and claim to the land to which they migrated presaged or was predicated on the eradication of the indigenous peoples, and whose expansion across that land drove many of them to extinction or to the brink of it (where many of them remain today). For what it’s worth, I feel the same way about Columbus Day. But put that aside. Also put aside the activities we REALLY engage in on Thanksgiving, the gorging ourselves on the carcasses of hapless domesticated turkeys and the frenetic pursuit of mass consumerism the next day. There’s something else about Thanksgiving that puts me on edge.

Even if it’s not simply about how a bunch of Old World migrants survived some harsh winter because of a utopian feast enabled by the Native Americans they eventually subjugated, there are other reasons to be suspicious of Thanksgiving. The mere act of giving thanks implies some receiver and is one of the few acknowledgements many Americans even make of the idea that who they are and what they have are not entirely fruits of their own efforts. Characteristically, however, many Americans who pause to celebrate Thanksgiving completely misplace their thanks; instead of offering it to the people whose efforts ultimately do determine who they are and what they have, they simply ascribe it to an unseen divine power whose existence is questionable (and highly unlikely). Further, by ascribing their perceived blessings to a god, they fail to consider the other side of the same coin: if this god is blessing them in sometimes trivial ways, why is he/she/it apparently cursing the unfortunate in very soul-crushing ways?

I haven’t written on this particular site about Thanksgiving before, since most such musings have instead wound up on Facebook. I’m not active on Facebook anymore, however, so I decided to move back to my blog for such things. Now, normally I pick some class of people whose efforts make our world a better place, and I thank them. This year, I am going to try something different, and something that will probably be a bit shocking to some. It is intentionally inflammatory. If you’re easily offended, I suggest you move on. Youll find no sympathy from me. If you’ve decided to stay, here’s what I’ve done: I have collected a number of images and links detailing suffering and misfortune. Why? Because if there is a god who grants us any number of trivial and non-trivial blessings, then he/she/it also deserves credit for the suffering in the world. So instead of listing out a bunch of things I am thankful for, I am compiling a list of the implications of thanksgiving from the perspective of those who aren’t on the receiving end of such blessings.

1. Food

Many Thanksgiving celebrants will offer up some kind of prayer, even if they’ve stopped explicitly believing in a god or praying every day. A central part of that prayer will be to give thanks for a bountiful feast, the one on which everyone has gathered to gorge themselves senseless. But heres a question: if your god has somehow blessed you with all this wonderful food, why is it that on any given day, nearly 2 billion people in the world will go hungry? Is your god loving or not?

2. Health

Another common theme in Thanksgiving prayers is good health. Americans, despite the kinds of health problems associated specifically with our lifestyle, are relatively healthy compared to so many others. We don’t have to worry about dying from the measles or being crippled by polio. We don’t have to worry about our immune systems failing due to chronic malnutrition. And we don’t have to worry (much) about the health effects of our public sanitation systems. It is the mere luck of birth that means you have these blessings around you. You could easily have been born somewhere else in the world, where access to clean drinking water, good sanitation, and vaccines are scarce. In the spirit of adding some numbers you can think about, just consider that more than 57 million people die each year just due to preventable diseases like the measles, pertussis, and pneumococcal viruses. What kind of god do you thank for the luck of birth? And if you weren’t so lucky?

3. Family

Americans are generally thankful for their families, even if they are small or dysfunctional. Being social creatures, that’s understandable. But did you know that there are more than 100 million orphans in the world? These are children who we’re abandoned either deliberately or through the loss of their parents or caregivers (often by war and famine and disease). The luckiest of these will end up being cared for in charitable institutions, but so many will not. If you’re OK thanking a god for the gift of family, then it seems you’re OK thanking that same god for orphans. It stands to reason, right?

Wrapping it up

Its time to face the uncomfortable truth: if you insist on thanking a god for all of your perceived blessings, no matter how trivial, you should be the one to reconcile them with the fact that so many others lack those same things. If your god can stop it, but chooses not to, then he/she/it is evil. Why offer thanks to that god? If your god is powerless to stop it, then your god has no power. What makes you think that god granted your blessings in the first place? The world is full of things that are rotten and things that are wonderful, but they aren’t the result of a divine being. Instead of thanking a god for what you have, take some time to appreciate all of the PEOPLE around you who work to make your world a better place, even if they have a long way to go in so many other parts of it.

Beautifully Helpful Resources – Your pics were fantastic! – We appreciate you for selflessly giving your experience. – Amongst my personal favorites. – Your knowledge is definitely incredible. Thanks for sharing. – Really pretty page.

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