A casserole of overconsumption, colonization and supremacy
Thanksgiving:The time to consume odious amounts of food, sit around with your family and offer token examples of your gratitude. People get off work and school to spend the day toiling in the kitchen, preparing dinner for their families. Small plastic turkeys adorn nearly everything in sight. The problem with this narrative is that it ignores the harsh realities of the seemingly innocuous holiday in its history, health effects and consumerist takeover.
First and foremost, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Thanksgiving dinners destroys your arteries. According to the Calorie Control Council, the average person in the U.S. consumes nearly 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving. When considering that the typical amount of caloric intake per day is around 2,000 calories, with typical fat intake being 44 grams of fat, the Thanksgiving meal allows people to consume an enormous amount of food.
With such a jump, there is an increased risk for heart disease. According to a study done by the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, two hours after eating a Thanksgiving meal, there is a fourfold increase in heart attack risk. Each time you swallow another gulp of mashed potatoes, you are slowly burning out your own body.
The gluttony that has become an iconic part of Thanksgiving feasts is beyond just the physical threat it represents to one’s health, however.
The over obsessive commercial characteristic of the holiday represents pervasive consumerism in U.S. culture. In their seminal study on the prevalence of consumerism in Thanksgiving, “We Gather Together,” Melanie Wallendorf and Eric J. Arnould wrote that the agrarian past of Thanksgiving had been replicated and co-opted by private companies to sell a typical homestyle message to consumers, and consumers easily buy up this message. It takes the form of advertisements based around Thanksgiving meals or typical images of family gathering together to capitalize on the general air of fraternity that surrounds the holiday.
In the same vein, Black Friday is only a further indication of the assumption of holidays by private corporations for private interest and not public good. According to CNN, Black Friday workers are usually expected to work 24 hour days, endure terrible conditions and deal with abusive customers. Also, keep in mind that most of the people working at these large stores nearly giving things away are also getting paid very little according to the National Employment Law Project. This has generated a lot of backlash. For example, Walmart, who always has huge Black Friday deals, is facing large scale protests for its abuse of workers and lack of decent pay according to The New York Times.
The roots of Thanksgiving show an equally horrible history of marginalization and oppression of indigenous peoples. You’ve probably heard the typical grade school story: Puritans arrive in Massachusetts and can’t grow crops because they aren’t used to the land. The nice Native Americans willingly step in and teach the dumb white people how it’s done. There is a massive harvest, and in exchange for all the help they received, the Puritans organize a huge feast in thanks. Eventually, Abraham Lincoln made the holiday official in 1863.
That mythology is the holiday we celebrate today. However, it isn’t the truth. When the settlers arrived in the New World, “relations between settlers and Native Americans deteriorated as the former group occupied more and more land,” according to a History Channel documentary titled Pilgrims.
This supremacist attitude lead to conflict with the local populations for control of land, most notably through King Philip’s War and countless other raids and skirmishes. When the Puritans and other European colonists arrived and made contact with the native peoples, they spread destructive diseases such as typhus or tuberculosis that ravaged Native American populations. According to Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, up to 95 percent of the native population in North America died as a result of the spread of such kinds of European diseases which amounted to nearly 20 million people dead.
To say that the English settlers were friendly with the Native Americans to such a degree is ridiculous in the face of the facts of U.S. history, and offensive to the massive crimes committed against the Native Americans in general.
Thanksgiving is not just destructive for the body, but also the soul. The foundation that Thanksgiving has emerged out of is a legacy and history of colonialism and domination by Europeans that has ravaged our country for hundreds of years. This history of exploitation and oppression continues to the current day with the abuse of workers by companies trying to squeeze out a profit. All the while we poison ourselves with unhealthy food and get distracted by pointless football games. Many will say Thanksgiving is a tradition. However, it is a tradition of exploitation, overabundance and supremacy.
Hale Douthit is a sophomore emerging media major who pokes holes in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons in his free time. You can email him at [email protected].