Monday, November 29, 2010

Holidays: Know the Truth Before You Participate: Part 1

Well, it’s that time of year again: the leaves have turned beautiful colors of gold, autumn, and burgundy hues; the radio waves offer melodic sounds and carols that transport you to a time reminiscent of the days of your childhood where magic, mystery and the anticipation of gifts from good ol’ Saint Nick fill your heart with excitement; the stores are filled with tons of decorations to prepare for the “traditional” holiday festivities; and that automatic craving and rumbling in your tummy for copious amounts of holiday staples (i.e. turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, stuffing, pies, etc.) has once again returned!

For many, the above images paint that quintessential illustration of moments in your life where the mere thought of the holiday season signify warmth, love, togetherness, and fun. While this may be the “feeling” most people possess, there comes a point in everyone’s life (or there should be) where you ask yourself the question WHY and WHAT?! Why do we celebrate specific holidays? What is the real history behind the creation of these holidays? Most people rest in the “assurance” or “comfort” that they celebrate holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, because they represent elements of “sharing with others,” “giving thanks or showing their appreciation for the things they have,” and my personal favorite, “tradition.” Over the last 9 years or so since my freshman year in college, I’ve searched for the origin and truth behind so many holidays that are widely observed within the United States. Moreover, I’ve been on a personal journey to understand what my feelings and perspective are regarding them. As a result of my intentional self-education and deep introspection about the nature of certain holidays, I’ve come to realize more and more that “holidays,” like the majority of other aspects within our society, are sacred and humanist entities exploited to perpetuate the capitalist, Western/Eurocentric, nationalist ideologies that plague and infect our world! I’m sure that for some people who may read this, they’re thinking, “what kinda crazy woman is this?!” (trust me…..I know from personal/face-to-face experience what many individuals think about my belief system!) If we take a closer look at the root or origin of many of these holidays and more importantly, what they actually “symbolize,” more people would begin to deeply question why they actually participate in certain holidays and why these celebrations are still in existence! Let’s take a closer look at some of the most widely celebrated holidays:

Thanksgiving: History books and other forms of literature, including children’s books, tell us that the holiday we know as “Thanksgiving” is a day in the fall of 1621, where the Pilgrims and the Native Americans came together in “peace” to celebrate the one year anniversary of their time “together” in Plymouth with a feast that lasted 3 days. During this 3 day event, the Natives and Pilgrims shared regional dishes (i.e. venison, turkey, goose, corn, pumpkins, etc.) and joined together in games and sport, like shooting arrows and muskets, solidifying their unity. Since that time, the “message” of Thanksgiving, while altered slightly, has been reinforced through modern-day mediums, such as films and television shows, ad campaigns from MNCs or multinational corporations, and dogmatic/religious sectors. This idyllic vision of harmony among two diverse groups has even infiltrated the most innocent of spaces; our early childhood centers and elementary schools, where children are told fanciful stories about the Pilgrims and Native Americans, while being indoctrinated to honor the holiday with theatrical productions, drawings of turkeys, and telling the class things that they are thankful for! The idea of Thanksgiving, (i.e. togetherness, unity, being with family, and appreciating what you’ve been given) sounds great! But as we all know, an idea in theory is COMPLETELY different from an idea in practice…like democracy or the constitution or even the declaration of independence! The TRUE idea or messages of Thanksgiving in practice, shows us the following: millions upon millions of Native Americans experienced terrorism in its truest form….. being strategically and forcibly displaced from THEIR lands (i.e. The Trail of Tears,) slaughtered and massacred by violence and diseases (i.e. smallpox) from European terrorists (NOT the meek, God-fearing people history claims they were,) women and children raped, homes reduced to ashes, and their authentic cultural history and identity irrefutably transformed, misrepresented and exploited under a nationalist reign of oppression! (This definitely reminds me of another group of people who’ve endured and still receive this type of tyranny!)If we simply look at the pre-Columbian population demographics of the numerous groups of Native Americans within this nation ALONE and compare that to their percentages today, it’s glaringly apparent that “Thanksgiving” is not as pretty or utopian as the history books and the modern day vessels of oppression would have you to believe! While the accurate data of the total number of Native Americans has been difficult to trace, it is estimated that over 100 million Indigenous Americans once inhabited this vast terrain; NOW, their numbers average .8% or 2.5 million of the US population!!!!!! Furthermore, in many Native American communities, they experience extreme levels of poverty, severely low percentages in educational attainment and achievement, minimal economic security due to low-paying jobs, high levels of alcoholism and substance abuse, high crime and violence, and high rates of health issues, like cholesterol and blood pressure….(sounds STRIKINGLY parallel to that of many African-American communities in what our society coins as “ghettos” or contemporary concentration camps, which were also purposefully designed to marginalize this group!)  Knowing this, does it even seem remotely just that our nation revives this lamentable event of sheer, undeniable genocide and ethnic cleansing year, after year, after, year?! Honoring this holiday would be as disgusting and unacceptable as creating a holiday to remember the millions of Africans that were ripped from their native lands and forced to endure over 500 years of depraved subjugation, while also celebrating the racism, classism, and terror experienced during the Reconstruction period, Jim Crow era, Civil Rights movement, and even the racist remarks made about the current President! I suppose that we should also have holidays that loosely commemorate the hundreds of thousands of LGBT community members that have died and been severely beaten at the hands of homophobic tyrants while concocting a whimsical tale about the “unity” that was shared between the LGBT and heterosexual groups despite their differences! SMH!!!! The real history behind this widely recognized holiday is one of torture, terrorism, corruption, and mainstream “development” in their purest forms; a complete contradiction to the diplomatic and harmonious fable that is all too often recounted to our society: as the compelling African Proverb states, “Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.”

What’s also pathetic about the nature of Thanksgiving is the capitalist and gluttonous manner in which it is celebrated. Again, every single year, people wait in ridiculously long lines at the grocery store to purchase those “staples” that billion-dollar organizations, like Wal-Mart, and fallacious history books instruct consumers (emphasis on consumers) to possess due to “traditional” necessity. Across the nation, agents of capitalism (i.e. grocery stores) begin to display those “hallmarks” of the imminent fall holidays as early as October! This marketing tactic so powerful in nature employs the theories of influence in the visual context to actually create and promote the notion of desire or “need” within the consumer to buy, buy, buy! This “need” becomes further reinforced through flashy advertisements and commercials from businesses encouraging people to “get it now before it’s too late.” A prime example of this capitalist overindulgence, better known as consumerism, is the phenomenon many call Black Friday. Just the day before, (i.e. Thanksgiving) millions of families came together (but surprisingly don’t spend any other time together during the other 364 days of the year) to “take a moment” and “reflect on the things that they’re thankful for” and the VERY NEXT DAY, they run out in excessive droves, often waiting OUTSIDE of stores for hours to purchase a plethora of items that they don’t need and definitely with money that they don’t have! Oh yes, THIS is the way to show what you’re thankful for because after all, THINGS are what make us happy and what sustains us…..SMH!!!!!! Additionally, the Thanksgiving holiday, (as it is endorsed by this capitalist political economy,) strongly suggests to consumers that you should enter into the world of hedonism (or extreme gluttony) by stuffing your faces with a cornucopia a provisions high in fat, sodium, sugar, and carbohydrates because “THAT’S WHAT THIS TIME OF YEAR IS ABOUT!” So the lesson here girls and boys: spend tons of money on food and other material entities and eat until you pass out into a diabetic coma because “it’s the American way and the tradition of this holiday!” Disregard the fact the millions of families within this country alone are without the BASIC necessities we as humans need to exist and are starving not because of their own fault, but due to the capitalist-extremist, oppressive, hierarchical, racist and sexist division of labor that substantiates and encourages gross levels of poverty in order for their gluttonous appetites to be filled! When you really deconstruct this holiday, beginning from a historical origin and later through a lens of capitalist sensationalism, which also promotes a culture of depraved self-indulgence, you really start to wonder if this holiday, completely inaccurate in nature, is morally just and representative of your true values for your participation at all! Is it?!

1 comment:

  1. Lady J, This is another EXCELLENT, EXTREMELY INFORMATIVE, MULTI-LAYERED Post! It's very thought-provoking and does cause one to reflect on just why we, by rote or tradition or whatever means, routinely get caught up in so many of the things that we do, especially surrounding holidays. Many of us annually gain pounds, headaches, heartburn, heartache & unnecessary debt all for the sake of 'celebrating holidays'. This is a perfect time to reflect on what the true meaning of any of this is & what our personal level of participation should be. More than likely the people that we so often get in debt to buy things for don't need any of it. However, there are always people who can't provide even the most basic of needs for themselves or their families. Maybe our time & money would be better utilized to help these people attain a better position. We can do many things to assist others such as donating funds, teaching adults to read, delivering meals, volunteering at orphanages, nursing homes, shelters, hospitals, schools, etc. This is the type of participation that is truly fulfilling. Thank you again for another FANTASTIC post & do keep up the SUPERB work!