Why I (Don’t) Hate Thanksgiving

Charlie Kirk is Wrong Again

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Guys, it’s 2020, which means it’s been 16 years since, as I mentioned in a previous video, Bill O’Reilly launched the first salvo in the War on Christmas. Since then, we progressive secularists have had some victories, like last year when the Democratic governor of Wisconsin asked students to design science-themed ornaments for the “Holiday Tree,” and we’ve had losses, like this year when Bill O’Reilly still hasn’t died. What’s important is that we’ve mostly succeeded in making the word “Christmas” completely off-limits in popular media.

While the War on Christmas isn’t over, and let’s be honest, wars are never over anymore. War. War never changes. Or ends. Did you know US troops are still fighting a war in Afghanistan? It’s been two decades.

Anyway, it’s time for a fresh new war to take our minds off all those old, still ongoing wars, so how about this: The War on Thanksgiving? Here’s the intellectual giant with the weirdly tiny face Charlie Kirk with the official declaration.

Newly divorced Haley Joel Osment has a point, everyone. And I’m not actually kidding, there, he does have a tiny kernel of an honest point there, which he states at the very top. I’ll get to that but first I want to briefly mention some of the things he gets wrong. 

Charlie says “They hate Thanksgiving because they believe there’s nothing you should be thankful for in America. It’s rotten to the core, why would you be thankful. Instead we need a revolution.”

Wrong! We have so much to be thankful for. AND we need a revolution.

Charlie the Grouch goes on to say: “Remember, as the students for a democratic society radicals once wrote in the 1960s, they said ‘conflict is the origin of everything.’ What happens when you’re thankful? By definition You’re less likely to be involved and engaged in conflict.” So, just to be clear, he is saying the Students for Democratic Society said “Conflict is the origin of everything.” Everything else is his own words. But the SDS didn’t say that conflict is the origin of everything. Heraclitus said it (or something like it). He meant that life is change, and that through struggle and conflict we progress. He’s the guy who said (again, more or less, as summed up by Plato) “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” And he absolutely did not have any opinions on Thanksgiving, or being thankful in general. In fact, his entire point was that if you want to stand there for a minute and collect yourself that’s fine, but the world is going to keep on moving and changing without you.

It’s a shame because I bet Charlie Kirk would actually really like Heraclitus, considering that both of them were born rich, neither of them are big fans of democracy, and by all accounts neither of them are much fun at parties.

On that note, he ends his little broadcast with “And now they’re using the virus as an excuse for you to not be thankful.” Charlie, no. Saying that we shouldn’t gather in groups because there’s a pandemic going on right now that has thus far killed more than 1.3 million people doesn’t mean we hate Thanksgiving or that we don’t want you to be thankful. And on that note let me end with the one thing Charlie almost sort of got right. His first words are “The left has always hated Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving can be interpreted as a religious holiday if you believe in giving thanks to a creator.”

Okay, “the left” has not “always” hated Thanksgiving, nor do I think “the left” hates Thanksgiving now. But he’s actually right that Thanksgiving can be interpreted as a religious holiday, something I had honestly never considered until around 2008 when I learned that some Christians think atheists shouldn’t get to celebrate Thanksgiving, and then I learned that some prominent atheists actually agreed because they really thought that being grateful necessitated being grateful to something or someone. It’s been a very long time since I saw any prominent atheists try to make that argument, which could mean they realized that was a stupid hill to die on or it just means I don’t follow many prominent atheists any more. Who can say?

But as for me, I’ve always loved Thanksgiving as a holiday for, in a way, checking your privilege. The way Thanksgiving started, as a myth meant to whitewash the European treatment of indigenous people, is complete and utter bullshit but honestly that’s true of most holidays. While it’s important to call that out and put an end to the outright lies, it’s also worth hanging on to what the holiday has come to mean: taking a moment to think of all the things in your life that are good, and just sitting with that and being grateful for a minute. For instance, 2020 sucks ass but I’m extremely privileged to be able to still have a job, to have a partner who also still has a job, to have the most beautiful dog in the world, to have a warm home and a pantry full of food, to have friends who are always just a text or a zoom call away. Thanksgiving is a great reminder to think of all that, and to realize that other people aren’t so lucky, and to reflect on how I might be able to help those other people have those things for next Thanksgiving.

That’s the cool thing about holidays, in general — the ones that catch on do so not because of the reason they started, but because over time humans tend to find nearly universal good things to celebrate. Some people celebrate Christmas because they think a magical baby was born on that day, but the reason why it’s popular is because of pretty lights, a spirit of giving, and delicious food. Mother’s Day has roots in the Church making everyone travel back to their birthplace to go to church and give them money, but now it’s about making our moms feel appreciated. Way better! Every “religious” holiday eventually becomes secular, because people attach meaning to it that transcends made-up religious beliefs and divisions.

And so it’s true of Thanksgiving. It started as a lie, some Christians have tried to turn it into a religious thing, but ultimately it will persist because people like to eat good food, connect with family and friends, and reflect on what they have that makes life worth living. Unfortunately, one of those things should be skipped this year, at least in person. But if Charlie Kirk thinks that the only thing worthwhile about Thanksgiving is getting to sit around a table with your family in person, then he’s missed the reason why I and so many others love it. Be thankful for what you have. Tell your family and friends how much you appreciate them. And then demonstrate that appreciation by keeping them safe. Stay home, stay alive, stay thankful until next year.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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One Comment

  1. One thing… O’reilly didn’t come up with the war on Christmas. It was created by henry ford in his book, which I will use the original name for rather than the one they made up to be less obvious about his intentions, ‘the international jew: the world’s foremost problem’

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