When Thanksgiving arrives, the media coverage is mostly predictable. Feature stories tell of turkeys and food drives for the needy. We hear about why some people, famous and unknown, say they feel thankful. And, of course, holiday advertising campaigns launch via TV, radio and print mediums.

The media advertisements show holiday celebrations that speak to the need for compassion and spiritual connection, however, the efforts point in opposite directions.   As a practical matter, in the media world, late November brings a ritualized frenzy called Black Friday. Anyone who takes thanksgiving seriously as a time for reflection is likely to sense a disconnect with all the media content that speaks only of consumption.

Actual thanksgiving might bring the recognition that many people have all they really need.  In contrast, a wide array of media messaging tells us that we don't have what we need -- and if we can just spend money the right way, we'll get it. Television commercials are constantly making the case that we should not -- must not -- be content with what we have. And the ads offer innumerable ways that spending money can remedy the situation. In that sense, much of media keeps stoking the hot coals of unthankfulness -- dismissing what we already have as woefully insufficient.

The commercialism pegged to Thanksgiving provides the most powerful undercurrents for the holiday.

Additionally, publicized attention is given to the original Thanksgiving --- newly arrived settlers in their new world, we've been told, gratefully received help from savvy Indians who generously shared their food and knowledge of how to prepare for the oncoming winter.

What is the oft-neglected story, in turn, is rarely examined as a parable to today.  It is the story of the Europeans who arrived in North America several centuries ago and were glad to take from native people -- and then proceeded to plunder and kill with a zeal that became genocidal.  

Our relatives work hard on respecting our family ways.    They don’t understand us but try to make room for our unorthodox manner of celebrating the holidays.  It is a struggle and it is easy to see why after understanding the constant bombardment of the Rockwell Holiday by the media.  

We choose to stay home on Thanksgiving, be grateful that we found each other and enjoy our son.    However, we still get the phone calls from our relatives several weeks prior to the day inviting us to their celebrations.    Not understanding why we decline, it is clear a few take offense and think we don’t like their company.   Others think we already have plans and don’t want to hurt their feelings.  But most of the time we simply get silence as they try to process why we would be staying home.  What are we hiding?  

To make matter worse for our relatives – we are probably going to change how we do Thanksgiving.   We simply don’t like how society or America has labeled and contrived the holidays into something meaningful that can be bought at your local Wal-Mart. On the rhetorical surface, Thanksgiving marks a time of appreciation. But meanwhile, most of all, media outlets encourage us to buy -- and forget.

As we develop our own family traditions, our ‘unorthodox’ ways will seem more on the fringe I am sure.

Comment