Happy Thanksgiving – Here’s Why We Urgently Need A Similar Holiday Of Our Own In Britain

The first Thanksgiving

Most Brits probably do not know or care that Thursday 23rd November is the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States of America. Yet many of us are getting ready to hunt for bargains and pre-Christmas deals on Black Friday.

Take a trip to your local big box superstore – or virtually anywhere online – in the next day or so and you will be treated to wall-to-wall promotions about the upcoming Black Friday sales. “Get ready for Black Friday!” scream the advertisements, as one company after another tempts you with sweet promises of unbelievable savings. Yes, Black Friday is coming to Britain – again.

And so it has been for the past few years now. We in Britain have successfully imported the commercially lucrative, post-coital rump of a cherished American national holiday – Thanksgiving – while neatly skipping over all the pesky fundamentals that give it real meaning: you know, those pesky things like love, family, gratitude and patriotism, tiresome distractions that don’t give us an excuse to shop and which will never generate a good Return On Investment.

This is as strong a contender for Tasteless Corporate Act of the Year (Large Retailer category) as we are likely to witness this side of Christmas. And we Brits have certainly thrown ourselves into the spirit, crushing one another in the stampede for discounted TVs and getting into fights which have to be broken up by the police.

But apparently – and rather gratifyingly – a number of Brits have started to recognise Thanksgiving too, in our own semi-comprehending way (I’ve seen Yorkshire pudding and roast beef being served at some British Thanksgiving dinners, which is definitely cultural appropriation gone wrong), with retailers now stocking up with pumpkin pie and other traditional Thanksgiving fare in time for the holiday.

Full disclosure: I’m married to a Texan girl, so our household observes both British and American holidays – which means that Jenny gains Boxing Day while I gain Thanksgiving. And for the past five years we have held a Thanksgiving dinner the weekend closest to the day itself, and invited as many friends as we’ve been able to squeeze into our succession of tiny shoebox apartments. I’m responsible for the turkey, Jenny takes charge of the stuffing and the sweet potato casserole (you mock the idea of marshmallows on top of sugared, spiced sweet potato until you’ve tried it) and we split everything else between us with our flatmate.

And if I may say so myself, this annual event has become roaringly popular, to the extent that who gets invited and who doesn’t quite make the cut has become a rather delicate political dance. This year there will be fourteen of us squeezed into an improbably small space, and all fourteen places were snapped up as soon as my wife sent the Facebook invite back in April.

But not everybody is happy that Thanksgiving is gaining a foothold in Britain, including Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn who argues that just like American GIs after the Second World War, Thanksgiving has outstayed its welcome on our shores:

Yet until about five minutes ago, none of this madness existed. Like Halloween, another tacky American import which has hijacked Guy Fawkes Night, and about which I wrote recently, both Thanksgiving and Black Friday are now fixtures in our calendars.

Supermarkets tempt us with ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving treats. Colour supplements carry recipes for Thanksgiving dinners. The Sunday Times Magazine this weekend devoted several pages to telling readers how to prepare mouth-watering delights such as pumpkin pie, candied sweet potatoes and green chilli cornbread.

Why? Do the editors imagine that out there in Middle England, people are thinking to themselves: ‘I could murder a slice of green chilli cornbread’?

He goes on to rant:

We don’t celebrate France’s Bastille Day, or Canada Day, or Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). So why the hell should we adopt U.S. holidays?

Apparently it does not occur to Littlejohn that the British may be increasingly curious about Thanksgiving because the very idea of a unifying, non-commercialised national holiday which binds us together as a United Kingdom and calls on us to be thankful rather than petulantly self-entitled is so curiously alien to this country – especially the contemporary Britain of 2017.

A couple of years ago I took part in a TV debate on London Live, arguing that we should absolutely not make the festivals of Eid and Diwali UK public holidays, for fear of muddying the cloudy waters between religion and state yet further:

 

I was outnumbered, but I made the case as strongly as I could that what Britain desperately needs is a unifying, secular public holiday that can bring us all together as one people – not another cynical, politically correct and divisive nod to multiculturalism.

The intervening years have only proved my point, with ISIS flags flying from London housing estates, disaffected young Muslim teens stealing away from the country which gave them life and liberty to join the Islamic State and deadly terror attacks in London and Manchester. On the domestic front things are little better, with a painfully wide chasm emerging between those of us who voted to leave the European Union and those who wanted us to Remain, those who think that Jeremy Corbyn is a living saint while the Tories are evil on the one hand and people who think the exact opposite on the other.

Meanwhile, increasingly everything is being politicised and dragged into the gravity of our culture war. Only this week greeting card firm Paperchase was in the news after they were bullied by left-wing activists into a grovelling public apology for having dared to advertise in the Daily Mail, thereby prompting an equal (and deserved) reaction against the company from people who are not leftist ideologues.

In short, we in Britain are in desperate need of a reminder that we still have an awful lot in common with our neighbours, even if we vote or worship differently. But the ties that bind us together – frayed for so long by successive referenda, general elections, the culture wars and the toxic swamp that is political social media – need to be continually renewed, even if some of us do find patriotism “problematic“. And what better way to do so than with a national holiday which celebrates something in our rich, shared history of which we can all be proud?

There is no shortage of possibilities. While some seem to enjoy talking down Britain and our substantial contributions to world commerce, art, science and culture, I’m sure that if we put our heads together we might find something in the last few centuries of our national story worth elevating as an occasion of which all Britons can be proud (but please, just not the Fifth of July).

Magna Carta Day (15th June), Trafalgar Day (21st October), VE Day (8th May) or Commonwealth Day (second Monday in March) are just a few possible candidates which are existing days that could be “upgraded” to a UK-wide celebration of quiet patriotism, community service and thanksgiving, and which already have some historic resonance.

Such resonance is important. In the United States, President’s DayIndependence Day and Thanksgiving have meaning for all Americans because they are rooted in shared history and not political views, ancestry or sadly-waning Christian faith. The newly arrived immigrant can take up these celebrations immediately upon arrival at no cost to their existing traditions and without any potential religious conflict. And that is exactly what Britain needs right now.

So before you scoff at the idea of our American cousins eating themselves into a stupor for seemingly no good reason, I would ask you to do two things — firstly, spare a thought for me as I try to avoid burning a massive turkey that barely fits inside our oven while also cooking it sufficiently well that I don’t send fourteen angry people to the hospital with food poisoning. But secondly and more importantly, take some time to reflect on the reasons that you – and that we all – have for being thankful this year, and on the many traits and aspirations which we still have in common, even amidst Brexit, the culture war and the politicisation of everything.

As Abraham Lincoln – the president who in 1863 fixed the observance of Thanksgiving to be the fourth Thursday in November – implored in his first inaugural address:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

After another year in which the idea of what it means to be British has become increasingly muddled and uncertain, let’s humble ourselves and dare to take a lesson from our former American colonies. Let us find inspiration in our storied history, our rich culture and also from within our own hearts. Let us find that elusive common thread of Britishness that should unite us all, transcending race and religion and politics.

I would argue that maybe some of the reason that more British people are starting to notice and observe Thanksgiving as well as the Black Friday sales we have imported from America is that deep down we subconsciously yearn for the sense of gratitude, social solidarity and civic-mindedness which Thanksgiving brings, and acutely feel the lack anything similar in our own national life.

So let’s change that.

Thanksgiving Proclamation - President Abraham Lincoln - 1863

Happy Thanksgiving

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Happy Thanksgiving

O beautiful for glorious tale of liberating strife

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers, as well as everyone in Britain preparing for the Black Friday sales which we seem to have greedily imported without the heartwarming national holiday which precedes them.

Here is James Taylor, performing “America The Beautiful” at the second inauguration of President Barack Obama on January 21, 2013.

And perhaps, at this rather fraught and contentious time, we might all do well to take particular inspiration from the oft-overlooked second verse, too:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.
America! America!
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

 

Thanksgiving Proclamation - Abraham Lincoln

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 47 – An ‘Everyday Feminism’ Thanksgiving

The Everyday Feminism “Post-Election Thanksgiving Fact Sheet to Help You Prove Oppression Exists” is so deliciously beyond parody that it almost defies analysis too.

Kim Tran, who is “finishing her Ph.D in Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley” (naturally), writes:

“Thanksgiving” is a weird time when we get stuck with conservative family members who might trigger us so much that it feels almost impossible to formulate a sentence.

Especially this year – when the entire election cycle seemed dominated by not just sexism, but sexual assault and not just “colorblind” racism, but racial terror – we may find ourselves at a loss for how to make an appeal to our conservative uncles, cousins, and parents.

Trust me when I say I know how hard that can be.

Yes, there will be thousands of people twitching uncontrollably on the floor around the Thanksgiving dinner table this year, having been exposed to unwanted contradictory opinions and triggered beyond all endurance.

I’m not quite sure what Thanksgiving has done to deserve the special quotation marks in Tran’s introduction, though. Perhaps this is an allusion to the fact that the SJWs who read Everyday Feminism have little to give thanks for at the present time. And truly, one should feel sympathy for them. Previous generations of Americans who lived through the Civil War, the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, two world wars and Jim Crow and still managed to celebrate Thanksgiving have no idea just how hard today’s pampered young millenials have it, or how very little they have to give thanks for now that Donald Trump is about to take possession of the White House.

Oh, and let’s note Tran’s acknowledgement of “conservative uncles”, but not of conservative aunts. What’s this? Erasing the identity and lived experience of conservative women? Tut tut, very oppressive.

I’m definitely not saying to cross boundaries of physical or emotional safety. I am, however, hoping white allies can show up really hard right now because, well, we need you. We need you to be uncomfortable so that queer folks, undocumented people, Muslims, survivors, and countless others can feel safe.

Lord, have mercy. If I was a white person in Kim Tran’s acquaintance I would sooner spend Thanksgiving shut away on my own with a cheerless $1 microwave meal for dinner than spend one of the most beautiful holidays in the American calendar being lectured by some screechy SJW about how I’m not doing enough to make people who broke federal immigration laws feel sufficiently warm, fuzzy and safe.

But it gets better:

So particularly, if you are one of the few of the cohort of white progressives/radicals/do gooders, we need you to go ahead and call-in Randy, Travis, and Becky. I’ll even give you the cold hard facts to help you feel more comfortable doing it.

Woah. So let me get this straight. Kim Tran lives and studies at the prestigious UC Berkeley in California, the golden state, finishing a PhD in “Ethnic Studies” which would be utterly useless in the real world, but will equip her perfectly for a lifetime of tenured service on a university faculty perpetrating the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics. Basically, she has it made. And from this lofty position she sees fit to mock people called Randy or Travis, all of whom must (to her mind) be backward, ill-educated, prejudiced, tobacco-chewing hillbillies whose presence has is graciously tolerated, once a year, by the socially and morally enlightened readers of Everyday Feminism.

In other words, Kim Tran is stuck so far up her own backside that she openly mocks and belittles other people with more Southern-sounding names and zip codes, yet still considers herself the oppressed minority in America. It doesn’t occur to her that living in the Golden State and embarking on a career where she will be paid – paid! – to churn out meaningless identity politics drivel might, just might mean that she is more privileged than the stereotypical white male trailer park inhabitant in Appalachia whom she so evidently despises. Marvellous, absolutely marvellous.

The rest of the Thanksgiving Fact Sheet is the usual blend of lies and distorted propaganda pumped out by the SJW brigade – like the idea that one in five women will be raped in their lifetime, and one in four sexually assaulted at college, both of which statistics have been debunked more times than one can count.

Then we get airy assertions about illegal immigration, like:

Lots of immigrants do different jobs from natives because they have limited English language or technical skills, or because they have insufficient exposure to the US workplace. For instance the most popular occupation for undocumented workers is “maids and housekeepers,” while the most popular occupation for native workers is “cashier.”

My emphasis in bold.

Note the insidious switching between talking about “undocumented ” workers and immigrants in general, all part of the SJW masterplan to normalise illegal immigration.

Then we get damaging claims that oppression is somehow so endemic that “people of colour” (what a stupid term – and being one myself, I can say so) shouldn’t even bother trying to succeed on their own merits:

Pulling Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps Is Almost Impossible (If You’re A Person Of Color).

The idea behind the American Dream goes a little something like this: if you work hard, you can achieve economic success and comfort. Unfortunately, that’s not true for the vast majority of people of color.

One of the first steps to this kind of “success” is school and the school to prison pipeline predetermines students of color “as violent and in need of reform.”

Note how Kim Tran strips “people of colour” (ugh) of any agency or responsibility for their own lives, decisions and circumstances. This is the true tyranny of low expectations, and will succeed only in bolstering some people’s sense that they belong to a permanent victim class, focused largely on historic injustice rather than present opportunity.

And then for dessert:

Climate Change Is Real And It Affects Communities Of Color The Most

It’s important to mention that communities of color are most impacted by climate change and human-created environmental racism.

Three quarters of hazardous waste landfill sites are in Black and Latinx neighborhoods.  Moreover, during natural disasters like the recent hurricane in Haiti, women are often the last to escape, because they tend to prioritize the safety of their family and children.

Well, Black Lives Matter UK would agree strongly, at least.

I hope you are in a good mood to celebrate Thanksgiving now, having been lectured by Kim Tran and Everyday Feminism about how everything you are, everything you do and everything you love is basically evil and oppressive. And I know that “factsheets” like this one will make you really want to reexamine your own beliefs and reach out to the other side in a spirit of mutual trust and understanding. I know I sure do. Or maybe not.

This year, #JeSuisTravis.

 

Safe Space Notice - 2

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Don’t Let Politics Ruin Thanksgiving

family-argument-thanksgiving-election-donald-trump-politics

The holiday season approaches, and politically divided families gear up to fight the presidential election all over again

As Americans prepare to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday come face-to-face with distant family members who committed the crime of voting for the wrong candidate on November 8, the National Review looks back to a more innocent age when cynical politicians did not attempt to divide families along partisan lines or turn every last social occasion into a teachable moment in favour of their own pet causes.

Jim Geraghty writes:

The idea that Thanksgiving is now a massive, stressful, unavoidable occasion to litigate our national debate about party and philosophy over family dinner represents the insufferable hyper-politicization of American life. Some of this may reflect growing cultural differences, partisanship, communities segregating themselves along ideological lines, and so on. But there’s an unavoidable fact that only recently have we been subjected to political leaders explicitly calling for these holiday arguments.

Back in 2013, Michelle Obama wrote on the site of the White House’s political arm, Organizing for Action, that, “as you spend time with loved ones this holiday season, be sure to talk with them about what health-care reform can mean to them.”

Then in 2014, Mike Bloomberg’s anti-gun group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, offered a placemat entitled “Talking Turkey About Guns.”

In 2015, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest concurred, suggesting that families should discuss why members of Congress are too afraid of the NRA to pass a gun-control bill: “As people are sitting around the Thanksgiving table talking about these issues – as they should and I’m sure they all will across the country – I hope that is a question that will be raised and asked by members around the table.”

This year we get “How to Talk to Your Family About Planned Parenthood This Thanksgiving.” Pass the gravy, and let me tell you more about the organization’s commitment to STD testing.

What is wrong with these people? Since when is it a national obligation to subject your relatives to the conversational equivalent of push-polling? Everybody’s gotten together to express thanks, say a little prayer, maybe drop off some canned goods at the soup kitchen, watch a parade and some football, eat way too much, and scoff at the lunatics camped out on shopping-center sidewalks in anticipation of Black Friday. If a family wants the main course to turn into The McLaughlin Group, it will happen naturally. We don’t need government officials and interest groups to coach us on our dinner conversations.

More importantly, there’s a lot more to our relatives than their voting histories and political perspectives.

Take a good look around the table this Thanksgiving. Even when your family members drive you crazy, you’re lucky to have them. You’ll miss them when they’re gone, and they’ll miss you when you’re gone. Do you really want to spend Thanksgiving arguing with them about their vote, or the fairness of the electoral college, or Trump’s latest Tweet, or what the cast of Hamilton did? Must we say every thought that pops into our heads? Is it really so impossibly hard to find things to admire in our relatives beyond their political beliefs?

My American family has not been immune to the online partisan warfare, with several colourful and highly passive-aggressive Facebook conversations unfolding in the days immediately before and after the US election and Donald Trump’s remarkable victory.

We are not all assembling together in Texas for Thanksgiving, but will be doing so at Christmas, when we will be confronted by the same problem. And while the New York Times would have us print out and follow a tedious 19-point checklist walking us through the process of talking to our relatives about contentious political issues while maintaining an atmosphere of mutual respect, we know an unrealistic proposition when we see one.

Our current working solution: to hang a basket outside the house with a sign instructing people to “Please leave your political opinions inside this basket before you enter, and collect them when you leave”.

 

pop-art-donald-trump-2

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