November 9th, 2014

manning: uberbitch

About Thanksgiving

A thing happened recently that I didn't feel comfortable addressing directly with the person involved, so it's turned into a journal post.

Someone felt the need to go on a diatribe to me about how it's a travesty that Americans continue to celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday built on what can mildly be described as false premises.

Every year I post a picture to Facebook of Wednesday Addams holding a match and delivering the following speech about Thanksgiving.

You have taken the land which is rightfully ours. Years from now my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations. Your people will wear cardigans, and drink highballs. We will sell our bracelets by the road sides. You will play golf, and enjoy hot hors d'oeuvres. My people will have pain and degradation. Your people will have stick shifts. The gods of my tribe have spoken. They have said, "Do not trust the Pilgrims, especially Sarah Miller."...And for all these reasons I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground.

Despite this, every year, I make an effort to celebrate Thanksgiving. Since I've had the space to do so, I've invited as many people as I can cater for to my home and fed them, at the very least, on pumpkin pie and wine. Because I also believe that despite its hugely problematic origins, the saccharine mythology of which continues to be propagated in American schools, it is possibly one of the nicest American traditions in the way it is actually practiced. I have on many occasions not been able to be with my own family on Thanksgiving, including the entirety of the last decade. Yet because of the generosity of friends, colleagues and casual acquaintances, I have never felt alone or unloved on this holiday. When most Americans hear that you haven't got anywhere to be on Thanksgiving, they will immediately invite you to their own celebration, even if they don't know you well, and the invitation will be sincere. You don't have to take it if you don't want to. But the option is always there - to be fed a nice meal, in company of people in good spirits, which in my world is one of the best things you can ever do for others.

I know the origin stories of America, especially as taught to young Americans, are full of inconsistencies and glaring omissions. I know that Americans have, to put it mildly, not always behaved well as colonists. If I were to get romantic about it, I could argue that I embody the conflict between colonial and colonised interests from the cultural right down to the genetic level, given my parents' national and racial origins.

I also know that in choosing to become British, I have taken on the mantle of possibly the most notorious of the modern colonialist oppressors. And I know that in choosing to emigrate permanently, I have given up on participation in a large portion of the culture I was brought up in. I spend 99% of my time immersed in British culture. My partner is British. My children will grow up predominantly British.

So. I get angry when someone feels the need to tell me that, of the 1% of my time that I choose deliberately to celebrate something that is American, I shouldn't be doing it. Perhaps, O White English Person, the next time you feel the need to dress someone down for clinging to a tiny portion of the culture in which they grew up, you should consider that you are possibly not the most appropriate mouthpiece of justice.

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