How Thanksgiving tells a story of America’s pluralism

first_img Please enter your comment! Thanksgiving 2019By Matthew Dennis, University of OregonThanksgiving has remained America’s most treasured celebration: it combines tradition and invention, an appeal to the past and to the future, ancestor worship as well as acceptance of diversity.Thanksgiving does not exclude non-Christians or even nonbelievers. Thanksgiving is the time when Americans in the largest numbers reach out to the least fortunate in their communities through voluntary action and charitable contributions.However, as Americans gather this year, deep divisions have emerged even within families.Can Thanksgiving retain its favored status?As a historian of colonial America and scholar of American public holidays, I’ve long worked to separate history from myth and fact from fiction, and to help tell the stories of diverse Americans.Here is why this history matters even more today.Myth and fictionIt is true that the early history of Thanksgiving has long raised some troubling questions.The patron saints of the day – the famous Pilgrims – were the ones who in 1620 colonized Plymouth in New England, the ancient homeland of a Native people, who would be displaced by migrating multitudes of Europeans and white Americans. Consequently, some Native activists have used the occasion of Thanksgiving to voice their protests.Such demonstrations are not without merit. Later Puritan colonists did, on at least one occasion, observe a Thanksgiving to commemorate their military victory over their Indian foes – a triumph in 1637 that is now best characterized as a massacre.However, the Plymouth colonists – the Pilgrims, the inventors of Thanksgiving – were not actually involved in that travesty. Indeed, most subsequent New England Thanksgivings were harvest festivals celebrating peace and plenty, not war and devastation.My research shows that Thanksgiving might be that rare historical event in which the history measures up to the legend. In fact, the first Thanksgiving was less about colonialism than it was about acceptance, cooperation, gratitude and generosity.The three-day feast of 1621 included more Indians than Pilgrims, and the event served as a means to affirm a mutual commitment to peace and coexistence.Becoming AmericanThanksgiving, then, is not the best symbol for America’s dark history of colonialism and dispossession – much less apt than, say, the now-obscure Landing Day or Forefathers Day, which male New England societies celebrated in the 19th century to mark their ancestors’ landing on Plymouth Rock in December 1620, or Columbus Day, which hailed a hero more easily construed as a conquistador.Throughout its history, Thanksgiving has remained a multicultural affair, representing America as a melting pot.Waves of immigrants – who could easily see themselves as pilgrims fleeing Old World affliction and embracing New World freedom and opportunities – adopted and adapted Thanksgiving to affirm their American-ness.Officials in New York City provided turkey dinners for immigrants at Ellis Island, and the public school system used the Pilgrims and their feast as a model for teaching Americanism to newcomers.Although this “assimilationist” curriculum could be heavy-handed, as one culture was imposed on another, Thanksgiving was amenable to the immigrants’ hyphenated status (Irish-American, Italian-American, Chinese-American and so forth) and did not necessarily require that they denounce their ethnic or religious heritage in order to become fully American.The Thanksgiving feastWe can see this Americanizing process in a short story by writer, Pearl Kazin, “We Gather Together,” that appeared originally in The New Yorker magazine in 1955.The narrator is a second-generation Jewish schoolgirl at Brooklyn’s PS 125, who reflects on the intense lessons that dominate the school days beginning in October about Thanksgiving and Pilgrims.What is the significance of the Thanksgiving turkey?Ruocaled, CC BYAlthough they seem exotic, she is fascinated and hopes for a Thanksgiving feast of her own. But her immigrant mother is skeptical and uncooperative. “Why can’t we have turkey for Thanksgiving like everybody else?” the girl asks.“Who’s everybody?” My mother would say, without taking her eyes from the sewing machine. “The Feins eat turkey Thanksgiving? Doris Levine’s mother goes on the subway to buy a turkey God knows where Thanksgiving?” … “We don’t have enough our own holidays for you? Eh, who knows even where to buy a turkey, how much it costs … . Headaches she has to give me with her turkey yet.”The girl is only able to dream of a grand Thanksgiving with a turkey on the table and her entire extended family gathered around.But if this schoolgirl was disappointed, subsequent Jewish-American families and other newcomers would not be, as they celebrated “traditional” Thanksgivings that fused diverse ethnic or religious rituals with American ones and accessorized their centerpiece turkeys with imported new foods from distant homelands – rice and beans, plantains, “arroz con dulce,” (candied coconut rice) stuffed “derma,” (stuffed sausage) and other treats.Elizabeth Stern, another early 20th-century Jewish immigrant from Russia, remembered in her 1917 memoir (My Mother and I) how her family began to celebrate Thanksgiving.As the day approached, her father brought home a turkey – not the traditional fowl of the Jews – which her mother assessed with interest as bigger than a duck or chicken! They put out a white tablecloth, “as if it were a holy day,” and recited tales from the Talmud.Afterward, Elizabeth explained the meaning of Thanksgiving, which she had learned in school, while her approving mother cautioned,“One must not give thanks only on one day and for one bird!”Put simply: Thanksgiving has long been an invitation to become an American, a method of “do-it-yourself Americanization.”Shaping a pluralist nationThe fictional Nathan Zuckerman, Philip Roth’s Jewish-American narrator in his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, American Pastoral (1997), explained the day as a grand national, pluralistic, inclusive act that brought people together“on the neutral, dereligionized ground of Thanksgiving, when everybody gets to eat the same thing, nobody sneaking off to eat funny stuff —- no kugel, no gefilte fish, no bitter herbs, just one colossal turkey for two hundred and fifty million people —– one colossal turkey feeds all.”Zuckerman here celebrated the daylong “moratorium on funny foods and funny ways and religious exclusivity” and hailed the occasion when “everyone in New Jersey and elsewhere can be more passive about their irrationalities than they are the rest of the year.”A day when Americans suspended “all the grievances and resentments” and set a freeze in place “for everyone in America who is suspicious of everyone else. It is the American pastoral par excellence.”At a moment when the country seems particularly divided and the world seems more dangerous, Zuckerman’s pronouncements about unity, generosity and faith in each other provide some hope. I believe they accurately reflect Thanksgiving’s dynamic history, from 1621 to the present.As Americans collectively shape the meaning of the occasion, they mold the meaning of America itself as a plural nation. They declare their national identity simply by gathering privately and eating turkey.Lessons in ThanksgivingThis November 24, we might express hope through an updated version of Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, delivered originally on March 4, 1865, just before the end of the Civil War. Lincoln emphasized both a firm commitment to American principles and to national reconciliation.He urged Americans to “bind up the nation’s wounds,” with “malice toward none,” but “with charity for all,” and “firmness” in an ongoing commitment to justice.Thanksgiving is a great American paradox. But it is the apparent contradictions that have been critical to its enduring appeal, success, and value. It also continues to offer appropriate lessons for principled lessons.Editor’s note: This is an updated version of an article first published on November 25, 2015.Matthew Dennis is a Professor of History and Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Support conservation and fish with NEW Florida specialty license plate The Anatomy of Fear You have entered an incorrect email address! Please enter your email address here TAGSThanksgivingThanksgiving 2019The Conversation Previous articleFlorida gas prices could rise before ThanksgivingNext articleAAA offers Tow-to-Go program on Thanksgiving weekend Denise Connell RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR Please enter your name here LEAVE A REPLY Cancel reply Free webinar for job seekers on best interview answers, hosted by Goodwill June 11 Share on Facebook Tweet on Twitter Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.last_img read more

Read more

Jim Boeheim discusses Virginia Tech, Malachi Richardson and tight rotation

first_imgSyracuse (15-8, 5-5 Atlantic Coast) plays Virginia Tech (12-10, 4-5) on Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the Carrier Dome as it tries to get above .500 for the first time in conference play. SU head coach Jim Boeheim went on the ACC coaches’ teleconference on Monday afternoon and spoke about his team and its upcoming matchup.On playing Virginia TechVirginia Tech started off the conference season with a 4-1 record, a start that included a win over then-No. 4 Virginia. When the Hokies came to the Carrier Dome last season, SU had to come back from down 13 late in the second half to win.Boeheim said that Tuesday might be a similar type of test.“(VT coach Buzz Williams) has done a great job against our teams when we played them,” Boeheim said. “We went to the last play last year against them here. He’s got a better team this year. They’ve got multiple guys that can score. They jumped off to a great start in the league. They’ve been in every game they’ve played just about. This is a very good Virginia Tech team with a lot of offensive weapons.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“We’re playing better. We’ve got to continue to play well, and actually still get better. So yeah, that’s important.”On the improved play of Malachi RichardsonRichardson struggled early against Georgia Tech, failing to score in the first 20 minutes. But his 13 points in the second half propelled SU to another win. During conference play, he’s been on point with his shooting, connecting on at least five shots from long range three times. He scored a career-high 23 points against Virginia on Jan. 24, and hit 6-of-10 from 3.“He’s a very confident kid. He just goes out and plays,” Boeheim said. “He’s got a lot of confidence in what he can do. He started out the year really well and played great early. And then he had a little shooting spell. Now, since the league started, he’s been our most consistent outside shooter. For a freshman, he’s been really really solid and stable in every game. He’s really stepped it up in the league.”Boeheim did say that next year, when Richardson will play guard more, he’ll need to improve on aspects like ball-handling. “He can become a really really good guard in the future,” Boeheim said.On his short bench and tight rotationSyracuse plays the tightest rotation in all of Division I basketball, per Kenpom.com. Outside of Tyler Lydon and Frank Howard, there are no players consistently seeing minutes off the bench. Still, Boeheim says, it’s not hurting the play of his team.“I think it’s overstated,” Boeheim said. “Duke won last year playing six or seven guys and won the whole thing. You’d like to have another guy or two. But if you look at the tradition and the history in this game, the championship games and the Final Fours and the last 16 teams, most coaches play six or seven guys. There might be a couple guys out there for two or three minutes. But for the most part, it’’s six or seven guys. And if you don’t have anyone hurt it isn’t a problem. It really isn’t.“We’d like to have an eighth guy. We’ve been playing seven. We would like to have that eighth guy, that would be ideal. But we do have guys that can play a couple different positions so they can have a little bit more flexibility.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 1, 2016 at 12:52 pm Contact Sam: [email protected] | @SamBlum3last_img read more

Read more