Thanksgiving is more than gluttony

Thanksgiving is a disgusting holiday. It has become a holiday that shamelessly celebrates gluttony. Americans stuff themselves with turkey, potatoes and cranberry gel and, after this excessive repast, plop in front of the television to watch football. It’s idiotic to think that gorging ourselves in any way shows thanks.
Amidst America’s lack of conscience, Thanksgiving has degenerated into something meaningless. It’s no longer about history. It’s not about any religious observance. It’s not about anything except overindulgence — as if we Americans, who live in the land of excess and self-indulgence, need to set aside a day to stuff ourselves just like the turkeys we eat.
It’s a day of stupid little rituals that are supposedly profound. For instance, there’s nothing like the mass killing of some bird to show thanks. This is even more misguided given that the Pilgrims and Indians didn’t even have turkey at the first Thanksgiving. Turkeys aren’t indigenous to America, and the Pilgrims certainly didn’t bring them over. But we disregard historical accuracy. If we wanted to be historically accurate, we’d note that just a short span after the Pilgrims celebrated with the Indians, the white man ended up plundering their resources and killing most of them. The observance of Thanksgiving as a historical holiday is inane.
Perhaps you think Thanksgiving is not as much a day to celebrate history, but as a day to give our thanks to God for His divine providence. This is the most offensive reason of all. It’s offensively naãve to thank God as if He has done you a personal favor, providing for you because of the person you are. God did not provide for you for any reason regarding who you are. By blind serendipity you just happened to be born in a prosperous country, and not some desert where there is no food, no shelter, no providence. Just as easily, you could have been one of the millions inhumanely suffering from the lack of basic human necessities. It might as well have been you and it just as easily could have been you.
But maybe you steadfastly believe that God has provided for you because of who you are. Following this logic to its consequence, He must have forsaken the starving and the sick because of who they are. What other reason would cause you to eat to excess in the Land of Plenty while a child perishes in the desert from lack of food? If you accept this first assumption, you must accept its consequence.
Perhaps it’s more reasonable to posit that the suffering in the world is inevitable, and that God has made the best of all possible worlds, the one with the least suffering necessary. In this case, isn’t it our responsibility to improve this world and ease the suffering of our fellow human beings? So if you are thanking God, thank Him for providing for some of us, and promise to show your thanks by providing for those of His children who aren’t as fortunate as you. That is how one should give their thanks, not by gorging oneself on turkey.
Yet in bountiful America, we feel no obligation whatsoever to provide for other people. Every Thanksgiving we are selfish. Oblivious to the rest of the world, we insulate ourselves in our houses and bask in the luxuries of our suburban enclosures. We glut ourselves on food and then thank God for providing for us. Truly giving thanks has become marginalized, subordinate to our culture’s celebrated self-indulgence.
This Thanksgiving, please don’t be a reason for disgust. If you’re going to go home and glut yourself and thank God for his providence, save your breath. Show your thanks not by positive thoughts, but by actions. If you want to give thanks, take care of your fellow human beings. Don’t just sit your ass watching football, bloated on turkey, and think for one second that you’re celebrating Thanksgiving.
Matthew Brophy’s column will appear on alternate Tuesdays. Send comments to [email protected]