Thursday, November 25, 2010

327 / Thanksgiving

We call it "Thanksgiving." It's a day when we "give" thanks. The verbal construction used in naming the day seems to make the "subject" (the implicit "we" who do the giving) the focus of the activity described. Since "to give" is an active verb, a question arises about to whom (or to what) we give these thanks.

It strikes me that we may have gotten it backwards. It could it be that there is way too much focus on the "we," who do the "giving," and a lot less on the things we have to be thankful for. These are the things that are, in fact, given to us.

In a way, this implicit "we do the giving" focus seems to have been captured in the famous painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, The First Thanksgiving. It is part of a series of 78 paintings he did, entitled The Pageant of a Nation. This is the largest series of American historical paintings by a single artist, and The First Thanksgiving seems, to me, to be essentially "American" in its presentation. In the United States, "we" do the "giving." We are in charge. We're making the world after our own image. And by the way, "thanks" to you Native Americans whom we are displacing, and whose world we are destroying, as soon as we possibly can.

In Spanish, the day we call "Thanksgiving" is called El Día de Acción de Gracias. "Grace" or "benevolence" is doing the "acción." In this way of looking at it, we are the beneficiaries of the action of grace, not the "givers" of "thanks."

This meditation on Thanksgiving isn't exactly flattering to the United States, home port to the holiday, and I'm not even sure that my grammatical analysis of the Spanish language version is correct. The point I'm trying to make is something to think about, though. It's a whole new way to think about Thanksgiving.

If you want to know what I, personally, think "Thanksgiving" is all about, check out that song I have mentioned before. You can hear it by clicking the very next link: 

Gracias a la vida (que me ha dado tanto).

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