Today, millions of Americans will figure out that Thanksgiving is the worst holiday in human history. We only put up with it because Abraham Lincoln received a message from a vengeful God telling him to instruct the nation to be thankful for the tremendous slaughter from our bitter war over human chattel. We gratefully accepted this and later made him King President and honorary National Shopping Mall Santa. We pilgrimage in droves to his memorial so that we can appreciate him scowling at our gullibility.
And now, some 150 or possibly 3,000 years later (I should really google history), Thanksgiving has come to encapsulate American religious and cultural life. We literally sit around all day starving for a large meal served sometime between 1:00 and 6:00 pm (depending on the region of the country, it’s scheduled two or two and a half hours after when it was supposed to be ready); gorge on high-protein, high-carbohydrate, high-salt versions of food gums (cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, rolls, mashed potatoes, stuffing, turkey, and pumpkin/pecan/cherry/apple pie are all forms of gelatin), producing zombified grey matter and another person-ring of brown fat (it keeps us warm in the winter when we’re watching football); and then sit and watch commercials punctuated by brief spasms of brain damage (football). In other words, we use the minimum amount of calories waiting for the maximum daily intake of a hippopotamus. Absolutely nothing is accomplished—indeed, the opposite of an accomplishment is accomplished. It’s a social, culinary, and health demolition. No, that’s not right either, because at least demolitions require energy—Thanksgiving is simply a form of accelerated rusting. We fill up, sit back, and decay.
And we give thanks for this! Indeed, this is the key to the meaning of Thanksgiving: being grateful for being around people we’d rather be chewing. The apotheosis of the holiday is the moment is right before family members begin to fall off their chairs from lack of nourishment, when even atheists desperately offer prayers for being allowed to eat. The typical Thanksgiving prayer goes something like this:
- Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to be briefly and terrifyingly starved, reminding us of what it must have never been like for the Pilgrims, who were legitimately dying in large numbers. Thank you for giving us this epic bounty of coma-inducing narwhal calories and a corresponding couch or recliner to medically alarm our relatives on. Relax, kids, that’s just how Grandpa sleeps. You’ll see it again at his funeral. Bless this cornucopia, which means “horn of coma,” for keeping us alive another couple hours. We don’t think we would have made it. We thank Thee for Thy gifts, which we will be buying later today, hopefully online, because oh God that was an elephant meal.
Of course, the reason that we want to scamper away to Wal-Mart or our MacBooks is because Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the season of avoiding our relatives if at all possible. The day reminds us of the fact that none of us have anything in common, and what we thought we had in common is actually a misunderstanding of something that stuck in our head seven years ago. “Oh, you don’t like dried plantains with drizzled coconut reduction? I thought you did. Well, that’s dessert, unfortunately.” Thanksgiving also serves as a quick reminder that we will all have to do this again in about a month, with another rhinoceros dinner, and will have to give gifts, to boot. Everything anyone says is now the basis for poorly conceived presents (cranberry jelly subscription boxes) and future side dishes for giant salamanders (mashed peas with yogurt gravy).
The fact that we expend such effort in making this happen is an impressive achievement in its own right. We have managed to boil down all of the negative aspects of American life to a single, lengthy attempt at survival. We pack up our things as if we were fleeing a silicon dust bowl (everyone, including children over age 1, brings a cell phone, a backup battery, a tablet, and a backup tablet, in addition to their laptop and backup laptop); we wait until every other family is ready to leave, then all go to the airport or the same stretch of interstate simultaneously; and we snap at our relatives for interrupting us posting something on Facebook while driving the car/flying the plane. Assuming we make it to our destination without filing divorce papers against each immediate family member and some strangers we met at Exxon, we proceed to say how wonderful it is to see everyone whom we never try to see otherwise. Great to see you! Just for today, though. Normally, I don’t care. Is that the game?
To sum it all up: Thanksgiving is the essential American experience. It should be the only requirement for citizenship. It should be used on Guantanamo detainees and as the final exam for the special forces. It should be packaged as a tour for foreigners so as to discourage immigrants coming to our country and introducing yet another food to eat at Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, in other words, is perfect the way it is. The only way we could even hope to make Thanksgiving more American would be to put it in a pill that’s sold in bulk packaging and requires dosing every half-hour with a glass of sweet maize goop and a healthy, day-long application of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Star Wars Branding Event and Dog Show, available for streaming wherever you are operating a vehicle. We love parades.
So Happy Thanksgiving. It’s the best terrible thing we have going. If we simply got together for fifteen minutes at noon to eat a slice of pie, and then were allowed to go back home, we’d all feel much better. But that would risk the wrath of Emperor Abe and his Pilgrim ghost army, who might cast lightning bolts that would short out our laptops. We desperately need those for Black Friday. It began yesterday.