Thursday, November 23, 2006

Atonement with All the Trimmings

Last year, UT journalism professor Robert Jensen climbed into hot water (again) by suggesting that Thanksgiving in America should be a day of atoning for visiting extermination upon indigenous Americans instead of eating ourselves into a big fat stupor in front of the TV.

From an early age, we Americans hear a story about the hearty Pilgrims, whose search for freedom took them from England to Massachusetts. There, aided by the friendly Wampanoag Indians, they survived in a new and harsh environment, leading to a harvest feast in 1621 following the Pilgrims first winter.

Some aspects of the conventional story are true enough. But it's also true that by 1637 Massachusetts Gov. John Winthrop was proclaiming a thanksgiving for the successful massacre of hundreds of Pequot Indian men, women and children, part of the long and bloody process of opening up additional land to the English invaders. The pattern would repeat itself across the continent until between 95 and 99 percent of American Indians had been exterminated and the rest were left to assimilate into white society or die off on reservations, out of the view of polite society.

Jensen's polemic is still making waves today, as evidenced by this post on It's interesting to see how many folks reflexively disavow any connection with less-than-savory elements of our history even though the America they tell us to love or leave was clearly afforded in part by those elements.

Unlike Jensen, I wouldn’t go so far as to do away with Thanksgiving, nor would most who’ve ever tasted a Greenberg smoked turkey. I am thankful for all the good things in this country and in my life, but it wouldn’t hurt us to swallow a little crow with our Thanksgiving dinner every now and then.


Leslie said...

Oh how I miss having a Greenburg smoked turkey for Thanksgiving! Pity they don't ship them to Oz. Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours, Greg. xx

Aunt Sherri said...

Has anyone checked to see if they ship to Oz. Oh well, we enjoyed our Greenburg and Banana Cream pie from Flying Saucer Pie company - which I stood in line on Wednesday for. It was worth seeing the smile on the Beets' faces.