Thanksgiving isn't for the birds
It’ll soon be time for many to thaw out one or more frozen turkeys for Thanksgiving. It is a time of gratitude for the freedoms we have and those we have to spend it with. Gratitude itself is an intangible like love that goes unseen but nonetheless exists. The ego doesn't understand what you get out of such intangibles but the heart does. The ego understands being grateful even less than the action of giving thanks.
Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following self-improvement — Henry Van Dyke
In our modern materialistic culture that prioritizes tangibles above intangibles, 25% of Americans in a recent survey said that they’re opting out of Thanksgiving this year to save money for Christmas. Thanksgiving has never been only about what you eat but who you eat it with. Having an intense distaste for turkey is not a valid reason enough to cancel the holiday. It is an American holiday where one can further develop gratitude and appreciate those other than ourselves.
The mad rush of materialism and getting hits of dopamine have become synonymous with the American Christmas holiday season. Both giving and receiving are often rewarded with such dopamine hits. Interior and exterior decorations often go straight from haunting to ho-ho-ho jolly in anticipation of the December jubilee; bypassing the most foundational and first celebrated American holiday.
Even Black Friday and Cyber Monday are more attractive to the ego. Many holidays have a mascot of sorts and perhaps the turkey has worn out its welcome. Even if the turkey were to become less associated with Thanksgiving, hopefully the practice of gratitude and living from the heart would remain. It almost sounds like a bad, dystopian future movie plot.
Given the rationale behind the Thanksgiving survey, I’d say that skipping Christmas makes more sense from a cost savings standpoint. Not to mention all the stress that would be avoided by the Christmas rush. Less stress is easier on the heart and might just keep loved ones around longer.
Obviously, I’m not advocating for the cancelation of either holiday but one is more historically foundational to being an American than the other. Think of the children though, I imagine someone might be saying. What are we teaching our children when we send the message that Thanksgiving is optional but Christmas isn’t? It’s easier to take for granted spending time together when those you miss are never far.
While I won’t be with my daughter this Thanksgiving, I am still thankful for all the times we’ve shared. If my daughter were estranged instead of alienated, it would have been entirely by my own hand instead of with help from my ex-spouse. I’m thankful for the opportunity to see through the lens of my empathy what parental alienation of a child feels like. I only got to experience it from the other side as a child and was ignorant of how I was being alienated from my Dad.
I’m thankful that I found another woman to love and that loves me after my divorce. I’m thankful that I didn’t let the fear of my divorce hold me back from getting married again. I’m thankful my wife considered my daughter family enough and didn’t want to start another one of our own. My experiences in empathy have led me to decide that I didn’t want my daughter to feel like an outsider. It is a very personal choice to start another family after a divorce or not. Neither choice is wrong because when you have an attitude of love instead of judgement.
I had an Uncle Bernard who was judged and treated as an outsider while alive by his own sister and her daughter. I’m thankful I got to know him before his passing in 2012. They measured his worth in intelligence, appearance, material success and what he could do for them. He was mostly considered an embarrassment to them both and a burden to his sister. At Thanksgiving gatherings he was the subject of much cruel rather than innocent ridicule. It didn’t seem to bother him though. He told me that he’d become used to it. I knew he deserved better though and I could see that even then, he didn’t need their approval.
As a child, I remember admiring him. Those who were only capable of a superficial relationship with him likely never saw what I did in him. I wanted to know the adversity he’d faced that hadn’t turned him bitter but instead allowed him to become who he was despite it all. I am grateful for the time I got to sit with him, get curious about his life rather than judge him for his life choices. As an adult, I admire him for his internal perseverance and resilience. He and his sister were of Irish heritage and came here in search of The American Dream.
I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. — Henry David Thoreau
As an American, I am grateful for whatever freedoms still remain and were taken for granted before the pandemic. Blame is often a pointless endeavor. No longer blaming capitalism for any given problem in America and not conflating it with materialism could be a step forward. Securing liberty more like that written in the declaration of independence could be a step forward towards reunification after all the fear-based decision making and divisiveness.
Despite the multiple changes throughout history to the pledge of allegiance, certain parts still remain. One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. The United States of America could start living up to it’s name on more than a superficial level any day but it’s going to take more time than a single holiday.
The phrase “The American Dream” has too been supplanted with materialism for quite some time now since the first Thanksgiving. However, materialism is often what attracts people from all over the world to the United States and for many American citizens is used as a measure of success. Defining the American Dream this way is definitely one way to generate feelings of division, animosity and resentment.
What often escapes scrutiny is the individual lack of restraint on the insatiable quest for more that comes from one’s ego. Thanksgiving is a time to put dopaminergic desires and materialistic tendencies aside for a day so we can come together in unity. However, this may be why so many primarily ego driven individuals consider this holiday to be just ho hum.
Materialism refers to the individual characteristics like those found in narcissism. The ego absolutely adores this potent combination. Greed is not good and is a symptom of materialism rather than capitalism. Greed is also a problem to be solved by the individual rather than collectively and isn’t endemic to capitalism. The ego loves to show off and make comparisons during Thanksgiving but the heart can help reign that in.
Greed is the driving force behind the materialistic motives that are so often misattributed to capitalism. However, individuals often may prefer to blame outwardly than internally. Blaming a social system like capitalism is so much easier than looking inside yourself. Neither materialism nor consumerism know moderation and both are destabilizing economic forces which cause numerous political imbalances.
Perseverance and resilience are the tools we can choose to use in our daily lives rather than victimhood and manipulation. These two positive principles help form the foundation of our great American nation. Even though we may go astray at times, we always have the choice to forgive. We can choose to cherish life, liberty and freedom in the celebration of our Independence Day. People are the DNA of our country and it will break down if we don’t maintain it. — Dusk O'Deorain
Despite there being a other holiday dedicated to this purpose, I am thankful for my independence. Gratitude taught from the heart during Thanksgiving can bring that balance out the greed and materialism of the ego. As you’ve likely read here before, we need both rather than just the one.
America is a both a nation as well as many independent and individual states that were intended to interdependently collaborate rather than compete with each other. However, only a social system that values both the individual and the collective roles they serve can restore such balance.