Today, it's not easy thinking Thanksgiving thoughts. Like most traditional holidays, it has a certain inertia, carried on by the tradition that we should all get together and hang out with family, eat, watch football games, and plan on traveling. Other than that, much of the traditional Thanksgiving paraphernalia is more or less just consumer goods with no real concern about its background. In the public schools, I see little brought home that commemorates any historic connections to the event. In my time, hand drawn turkeys that traced my fingers for the feathers, in-class pumpkin pie making, pictures of the Pilgrims trekking through the winter woods, lessons and stories and plays and even old projector movies relating the events of those early days of the Plymouth settlement all reminded us of what the holiday was about.
It wasn't unusual for us to have a band concert or similar production the day before our Thanksgiving break. Sure, for most of us kids, Thanksgiving break was that tiding over, that pregame festivity that heralded the mack daddy of all holidays, Christmas. Today, that's called Winter Break. Then, Christian or no, it was Christmas. And even for those of us not in church, we loved every minute of it. Thanksgiving, even more than Halloween, meant the most wonderful day of the year was coming soon.
Today, of course, due to multi-cultural education and PC sensitivities and censorship, we no longer have such easy recounting of the events of that first Thanksgiving so long ago. Instead, as is usual today, we are reminded of the meaner things, the 'genocide' that arguably didn't really happen but we learn it that way anyway, the imperialism, the racism, the ill treatment of the Native populations - all of these become the focus. In deference to any potentially offensive presentation, little to no focus on any traditional Thanksgiving trappings is done. There might be a turkey picture here, or a lesson if the student happens to be in a grade that teaches history there. But nothing major. There are certainly no big celebrations, pumpkin pie feasts, band concerts on Wednesday (or Tuesday), or any such thing. At best - and I admit I've become happy with the break-even point - we just stop hearing about the awful legacy of America's horrendous past for a couple days.
In fact, with our modern sensitivities, most schools have little to do with this or that holiday formerly known as Christmas. There will be some winter decorations, and of course the break that happens to fall over the last couple weeks of December. But our schools have become wastelands of doldrums and yawns, daring not to celebrate anything traditional lest someone be offended by the references.
But come January, they will begin winding up for America's new Holy Day: The Feast of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They will spend weeks watching films, reading books, drawing pictures, attending assemblies. The hallways will be adorned with his pictures, with quotes, with references to the moments of his life. They will see clips from his March on Washington. They will be told to make the day special, to take in its meaning, to apply themselves to making our world a better place. It will be all the things that the holiday formerly known as Christmas and that other one that is still somewhat special because of family but not because of the horrible legacy it represents, used to be.
Which goes to show you. Every culture, every generation, every ideological revolution, every nation has its heroes, its holy days, it absolute values that it demands everyone conform to absolutely. Ours today is no different. Having dispensed with the old guard under the auspices of tolerance and sensitivity toward all people, beliefs and demographic groups, we now fill the void with new absolute value systems with their teachings and heroes, and bid a gradual farewell to the celebrations of yore that no longer have a place in the post-modern, post American nation in which we live. Happy Thanksgiving.