Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why Thanksgiving Sucks

Everyone's second-favorite explicitly secular national holiday (after Halloween) is here, and with it comes a smorgasbord of traditions. We get together with our families, eat turkey and potatoes, watch NFL football, parade down the streets of New York, and participate in an orgy of bargain shopping the next day. At one point, Peanuts characters got mixed in somehow, and since 1989, the President has ceremonially pardoned a turkey.

All of that stuff is fine, and getting together with our families once a year reminds some of us why we moved away in the first place, which is great, but it's frustratingly unfocused. Why are we doing all of this stuff? What deep social urge is satisfied by watching a giant inflatable Spider Man float through Manhattan while pouring gravy on a large cooked bird? The harvest festivals of old were meant to thank God (or the Gods) for a bountiful harvest, and while thanking Jesus or Mohammed for making it rain is obviously not something we're going to do, there's no reason we can't spice our traditions up a bit and make them a little more integrated. Here are some suggestions:

-Quit the sissy symbolic “pardoning” of a lone turkey. Instead of publicly not killing a bird, which is boring, why can't the president slaughter the animal on live television as a formal beginning to the holiday season? He could do it right before the Lions game. Imagine Barack Obama making a speech about the importance of family and sacrifice to American and then slitting a turkey's neck and getting his hands covered in blood while a crowd cheers. You're telling me people wouldn't watch that?

-Similarly, worshipping the icons of consumer culture by turning them into giant balloons and parading them through our largest city isn't going far enough. The Thanksgiving Day Parade needs be a non-stop celebration of our material riches. A balloon shaped like a TV would allow the announcers to wax poetically on the great benefits that TV has given us, and they could tell us about the great deals Best Buy offers on Sony flat screens sets. Charlie Brown and Snoopy could be wearing Old Navy sweatshits. The marching bands could play non-stop ad jingles. It's not like the parade makes any pretensions at being non-commercial, right? Let's go all the way with this.

-Marijuana and gay marriage need to be legalized. This doesn't have anything to do with Thanksgiving, but it would be nice.

-Finally, I'd like to see Thanksgiving become a little more public-spirited. As of now, we're forced to spend the whole day with our families. There is no caroling, no trick-or-treating, no watching a light-covered ball drop from a high place while a crowd chants numbers. We need to bring the giving of thanks into the public sphere to make a truly memorable holiday. How about massive eating competitions held in parks? Or what about not enforcing public drunkeness laws for a day so everyone's drunk relatives can lurch around the streets together? Thanksgiving traditions are founded on a pack of lies anyway, so there's no reason we can't change them. If we can't think of anything else, let's gather around and watch Obama slay the Presidential Turkey and sing the traditional Thanksgiving song, “Thank you for the X-Box, Microsoft!” Doesn't that sound nice?

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