by Kat Rosenfield
Thursday, 26
November 2020
Event
08:12

Thanksgiving Wars are more performance than reality

Today's holiday is the latest flashpoint in pandemic politics
by Kat Rosenfield
Happy holidays! (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

The War on Christmas came early in this year of the novel coronavirus. Traditionally, this annual cultural skirmish doesn’t really get going until sometime after the 1st December, starting with the now-familiar opening salvo of someone griping on Twitter about the religiosity of the Starbucks holiday cups (spoiler: for those who care about this sort of thing, they are never religious enough.) But with thanks to these unprecedented and very stupid times, the conflict has now jumped a full month ahead of schedule and landed squarely on Thanksgiving.

Once the pandemic became politicised, it was only a matter of time until everything else did, too, including family gatherings. The same tribal fault lines that separate the mask-defiers from the social distance warriors have emerged around what has, in recent history, already turned into a politically-fraught holiday.

Back in 2012, the American press cautioned readers not to let election drama spoil the meal (“You can talk politics at the Thanksgiving dinner table, just be respectful of others.”) By 2018, the notion of keeping things civil had been replaced by stern remonstrances that confronting our Trump-supporting family members over their misspent votes was a civic, nay, moral duty. This on top of the fact that Thanksgiving itself has long been poised to join Columbus Day in the annals of problematic holidays: considering how things ended for the natives with whom the first colonists dined, should we even be celebrating at all?

And now, a pandemic — which has managed to estrange us more thoroughly than a harrowing and disputed election ever could. One side gorges itself on viral, too-good-to-verify narratives of Covid-denying red staters gasping “It isn’t real!” as they die; the other stages a contemporary Texas Revolution for the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of stuffing.

Nominally, this seems like yet another front in America’s all-too-familiar culture wars. It’s liberal smugness versus redneck ignorance, “diversity and inclusion” versus “family values”, urban versus rural. The MSNBC-watching, blue-haired, blue-check elites already wanted to cancel Thanksgiving for political reasons and are only too happy to have an excuse to do so while tarring any dissenters as science-denying grandma killers. If political purity was previously measured by one’s willingness to lambast Uncle Trumpkin for his bad opinions between bites of mashed potato, this year, the best way to prove one’s progressive bona fides is to refuse to enter his home at all.

This, of course, outrages those Bible-banging GOP loyalists, with their front yards adorned with a tacky Walmart inflatable Santa (right next to the weather-worn TRUMP sign that stays up all year round.)

But there’s a big gap between performance and reality, on both sides: US airports on the weekend before Thanksgiving have been their busiest since March, and it’s not just Republicans traveling. Backyards across the country, in red and blue counties alike, are being set up for safe outdoor dining. Covid testing centres are crammed with people for whom a negative diagnosis is permission to go home hug their grandparents.

For all our posturing on social media, the desire to be together is something Americans of all stripes still share — as is the desire to thumb our noses at meddlesome, hypocritical lawmakers who try to tell us what to do in the privacy of our own homes.

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LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
1 year ago

I think the pro lockdown side rather lost the argument when they not only allowed but encouraged law breaking protestors during their lockdowns – as long as those protestors had the ‘right’ politics.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
1 year ago

OMG, “Thanksgiving itself has long been poised to join Columbus Day in the
annals of problematic holidays: considering how things ended for the
natives with whom the first colonists dined, should we even be
celebrating at all?”

It is a celebration of having one’s needs met, of being thankful of the bounty nature and society bring to allow families to prosper in a world where one cannot survive alone. Thanksgiving is really the World’s most perfect holiday, it is one of gathering together to appreciate having the means to make it, family and community and society celebrating each other’s presence, and some luxuries to enjoy. Thanking nature and man’s work and family that we take for granted most of the year.

Would you not celebrate VE and VJ day as it ended terribly for the non-combatants of those nations? Not all is about the victims. It is good to be grateful for what we have which is good, not always wear sack cloth and ashes.

I always have a Turkey dinner of all the traditional things, but this year my family is stuck in London Lockdown and I cannot go there, and they cannot come here, so it is the dogs, wife, and I over a big turkey dinner, which still is wonderful, my very favorite holiday!

Karl Schuldes
Karl Schuldes
1 year ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

Is Thanksgiving celebrated in UK? Or are you an American?

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
1 year ago
Reply to  Karl Schuldes

People in Germany celebrate it. Canada has one, too, only a month early so they won’t get lost in the snow on their way to Grandma’s. As for VE and VJ, I’ve gone back to celebrating Armistice Day.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
1 year ago
Reply to  Karl Schuldes

I am an American, although also a multinational.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
1 year ago

Meanwhile the media is promoting Black Friday deals and encouraging people to go out and shop.

Mark Lilly
Mark Lilly
1 year ago

This looks quite interesting. Is there a version in English, and without the repellant trendy/meaningless jargon?

Andre Lower
Andre Lower
1 year ago

Let’s see: Kat’s article last paragraph enunciated the advice to avoid Thanksgiving travel as an assault on individual liberties, rather than the painfully, obviously sound advice that it is on the grounds of public health. And Kat has the nerve of stating that “everything gets politicized these days”!
Kat is the one politicizing a clearly non-political piece of sound advice. She digs up a hole, then complains about it and places a warning sign “beware of the hole” besides it…
The only political bit of the article is Kat’s shameless defense of her own ignorance – “you blue people are oppressing me because I am proud of my ignorance!”.
So here’s the deal Kat: you are free to enjoy your precious ignorance as much as you want, except when it causes harm to other citizens. And there is nothing political in this arrangement, it is called civilization. You’re welcome.

Carl Goulding
Carl Goulding
1 year ago
Reply to  Andre Lower

Definition of civilization: a highly developed culture, including its social organization, government, laws, and arts, or the culture of a social group or country at a particular time. So which one of America’s civilizations is right and which one is wrong?

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
1 year ago
Reply to  Andre Lower

“And there is nothing political in this arrangement, it is called civilization.”Civilization is Political! That is what it is. In Sparta they exposed the frail elderly to the elements to kill them, as they did to any baby lacking perfection to keep resources for the strong (If I remember rightly, as did the Inuit and many others).

Now in the West we sacrifice the young (loss of never to be recovered education, and health screenings, and beginning jobs) to preserve the extremely frail elderly. Lots of kinds of civilization. Your chauvinistic belief in the one which exists in your mind does not mean it is superior to other possible ones. Lots of things need taken in, not just the old ‘If it saves one life….’