First, to all my readers who don’t live in the United States: Happy Thursday!
Second, here in the U.S. it’s Thanksgiving, a holiday often observed by stressing out while gathering with family, eating too much, and trying not to get into arguments with your racist uncle. We are told it is to commemorate a feast shared by the pilgrims (who we are assured came to the new world in search of religious freedom) and the Native Americans who welcomed them to these shores; while we sweep under the rug the fact that those pilgrims did not seek freedom, but rather wanted to impose a theocracy where they forced people to abide by their beliefs, that they only survived as long as they did because the Native Americans took pity on this group of malcontents who didn’t know anything about agriculture, and how eventually we stole the native’s land, massacred the women and children, made deals we later refused to keep, and then destroyed a significant amount of carefully curated land (driving many animal and plant species to extinction).
For a lot of us—specifically queer people—it is a doubly-stressful holiday. When we were closeted it was an annual reminder that many (if not all) of our relatives didn’t love us for who we are, but rather they love a facade we wore in self-defense from the homophobic beliefs of society and the self-loathing that society instilled. After we come out of the closet, it is the annual reminder that our queer selves are tolerated at best. We are expected to smile and sit quietly while outrageous and hateful things are said about people like ourselves and those we love. And if we commit the sin of letting that plastered-on smile slip and express an opinion of our own, we’re expected to apologize and agree that our lives, fears, and aspirations are not fit topics for polite conversation.
We used to spend alternating holidays with my Mom and the gaggle of relatives that live near her—Thanksgiving one year, Christmas the next. While then celebrating the other holiday at home. The last time we did that was the Thanksgiving right after the 2016 election. We knew it was going to be more stressful than usual, so we had planned to cut the length of visit shorter than usual.
It was worse than we thought. Instead of just having one or two people casually making racist and related comments, and just about everyone occasionally quoting a Fox News talking point or something a televangelist said, it seemed like everyone had turned into the racist uncle. Since then, we’ve stayed home for both holidays. Several days before Christmas (since I get a ton of paid-time-off from my work, I always have a few extra days in December), I drive down to deliver presents to the relatives there. I spend most of the day with Mom. I visit at least briefly with folks while I drop things off. And something about it not being the actual holiday makes everyone less likely to start spouting off their religious talking points.
So far, no one has come out and asked me if we’re skipping the holidays on purpose. I suspect it’s only a matter of time. But for now, this seems to work.
It will just be the two of us for Thanksgiving again this year. And I know I already have more food planned than we could eat in a single day. My husband keeps pointing out that we’ll just have leftovers for a few days.
Enough about that. Without further ado, here are some of the things I’m thankful for:
- my smart, kind, sexy, hard-working husband
- pickled foods
- people who help other people
- living in the future
- all the hummingbirds, chickadees, juncos, sparrows, finches, and Stellar Jays that visit my veranda a birdfeeder
- let’s not forget the crows!
- great ideas suggested by friends, such as the person who told me the secret that a separate squirrel-feeder stocked with pumpkin seeds will keep the squirrels from wasting most of the birdseed while going after the parts they like
- flowers that decide to bloom again during the coldest week of weather we’ve had this fall
- friends who will watch football with me and don’t blink an eye at my screaming at the TV during the game
- modern medical science
- people who fill the world with joy
- sci fi books and the authors who imagine those many futures
- misty grey mornings
- people who know you so well that when they find weird things amazing things (like combination bendy-straws/cocktail umbrellas, for instance) that they realize you would love them
- people who vote
- people who make art or stories or music
- NaNoWriMo writing buddies
- the magical piece of glass I can carry around in my pocket that contains all my friends (you call it an iPhone, I call it magic!)
- people who love
- the squirrels that visit our veranda—even that troublemaker that I call Crazy Ivan
- kittens and puppies and tigers and otters and mousies
- people who fix things
- my bananas, sometimes infuriating relatives (who I’m sure find me even more bewildering than I ever do them)
- not having to spend the holiday with (especially) the most infuriating relatives again this year
- my sweet, clever, ultra-capable, cheerful, long-suffering husband (who definitely deserves to be on this list twice!)
- fantasy books and the authors who spin such beautiful marvels
- people who love things so much that they feel compelled create fan works
- fuzzy socks and warm slippers
- all my incredible friends—who are talented, giving, kind, funny, accomplished, and clearly the most patient people in the world, because they put up with me!
For several years while blogging on LiveJournal I would post a survey asking about food people were making for Thanksgiving dinner. Half the fun in these polls were the conversations that would happen in the comments about the differences in what we thought of as traditional holiday foods. The first few Thanksgivings after this became my primary blog I constructed similar polls… but no one responded (there were occasionally be a couple of comments, but not many votes). So it hasn’t seemed worth it to construct a poll here.
I do think talking about the foods we loved as kids can be a great way to share memories and get to know each other better. But sometimes I have to remember that not everyone has great memories of holidays spent with family. And even some of us who do cherish a lot of those memories have a lot of bad memories associated with the holidays.
Because my dad insisted that, if at all possible, we spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with his parents, that meant that for most of the Thanksgivings and Christmases I experienced before the age of 15 he was on his best behavior. It was like being in a magical zone where bad things couldn’t happen to you. He would transform into the Good Son™ his mother expected, and therefore none of us got slapped, beaten, or yelled at. On the other hand, my paternal grandmother was a different sort of abuser, tending toward emotional manipulation and gaslighting. So it wasn’t that the holidays were perfect.
And then, when one is queer and closetted, whether family members are abusive or not, the holidays are an opportunity to be reminded that one is different. I preferred to hang out in the kitchen and help with the cooking, for instance—but if certain extended family members were there I would be scolded for not playing with my male cousins or at least hanging out with the adult men watching football. One particular a-hole uncle loved pointing out every one of my behaviors that he saw as being a sissy, for instance.
And then there are the questions about whether I had a girlfriend. Which got worse once puberty hit. Because no matter what your answer was, there were always those self-assured declarations, “Just you wait! When you meet the right girl…” and so forth.
And then there were the political conversations. In a sense, I’m sort of thankful that gay rights didn’t start being in the news with any regularity until my twenties.
What got me thinking about all of this was this amazingly horrible story: Junior’s Contest: Ruin Thanksgiving To Own The Libs. That’s right, Donald Trump, Jr, is daring his followers to intentionally goad your liberal relatives into having an argument. And of course all the trump voters are sharing it as if this is a great new idea.
I have a few responses to this:
First, once again we must thank the Republicans for demonstrating that they firmly belief hatred is a family value. While arguing at the holidays is a tradition in lots of families, it isn’t a good tradition. Taking delight in ruining to day of someone you claim to love? On a holiday that Republicans insist is a religious holiday, to boot. Way to show how will you understand the teachings of Jesus, guys.
Second, conservative relatives, in both my experience and according to a few studies on the matter, have never been shy about spouting off their controversial/racist/homophobic beliefs especially at holiday dinners. They don’t need any encouragement in that matter.
Third, those of us on the progressive end of the spectrum already have a lot of practice at biting our tongues and avoiding arguments at the holidays. See my second point. Now, it has been argued that disasters like the election of Trump might have been avoided if more of us had confronted our racist relatives more often at previous holidays, but I have my serious doubts in this reasoning. At least in my personal experience, arguing at family gatherings has never changed anyone’s mind. It was the one-on-one conversations outside the group situation that has been more successful.
Fourth, the libs in most families are far more likely to bite our tongues and roll our eyes with stuff we disagree with come up. The meltdowns are almost always from the racist uncle going off on an angry rant because of some fairly innocuous thing someone says.
It’s true that the last few years I’ve just been avoiding the awkward/angry conversations by simply not spending time with the trump-voting relatives at Thanksgiving, and limiting my Christmas visit to a day before the actual holiday. There is something about the gathering together that seems to bring out both the dysfunctional behavior and the need to assert their xenophobic-dominionist-racist-homophobic opinions. It took 23 years after I came out of the closet for some of the family members to stop saying some of those homophobic things to my face. Once again this year I don’t get to eat Mom’s Mistake Salad for Thanksgiving, but my husband and I are doing just fine with our pear and ginger pie, turkey, savory sweet potatoes (like Great-grandma S.J. used to make), green bean casserole, scalloped corn, and my Insane Relish Tray. And the downside for them—I’ll probably get comments as I have the last few years from several of the extended family because the variety and quantity of olives and pickled things on their relish trays never match what I used to bring down every year.
I much prefer our Peaceful Queer Thanksgiving to anyone else’s HaHa Trigger the Libs Holidays.
They aren’t even going to let us cook the turkey before they trot out more War on Christmas nonsense
I wasn’t going to write about the so-called War on Christmas until after Thanksgiving. But some people just cannot let a day go by without claiming that they are the victims of wholly fictitious campaigns. I actually entertained the notion that these stories might go away. I mean, Trump said in more than one of his speeches that he, personally, had brought “Merry Christmas” back—I don’t know where he thought it was, but then his sentences are so often just word salad that you start giving up trying to decode him.
But he proclaimed that the War on Christmas was over because he won it! And his supporters, which include the same idiots who scream about the War on Christmas every year usually believe every word he says. Despite overwhelming evidence about each lie he tells. So I thought maybe they’ve give it up.
Nope. If you want a summary of at least a couple of the blow-ups (along with a lot of snarky commentary), check this out: Seems Like The War On Christmas Starts Earlier Every Year!
Of the three incidents they talk about in that story, the one that really pisses me off is scamvangelist Jim Bakker going on his show and talking about that time, just a few years ago, when it was actually illegal to say “Merry Christmas.” Until, he said, his viewers called people and got the law repealed.
At no point during Jim Bakker’s lifetime has it been illegal anywhere in the United States for a person to say “Merry Christmas.” That’s just a fact.
There have been moments in history when celebrating Christmas was against the law—but it was over 300 years ago. The Puritans were quite opposed to Christmas and well, pretty much any fun at all. In Boston, for instance, Christmas was banned from 1659 to 1681.
Celebrations of Christmas had been banned in England for a while, before that, also because of Puritan influence. In 1644 the British Parliament banned seasonal plays, traditional Christmas games, the singing of carols, the hanging of holly, and so forth. Businesses were required by law to be open on December 25. Other forms of merry-making and partying were also legally discouraged year-round, but Christmas seemed to really annoy them. It was not a time when the phrase “Merry Olde England” had much meaning. Those laws were repealed in the year 1660, but that was only in England. Various U.S. colonies kept the laws on the books.
The Puritans were not atheists. They considered themselves very devout Christians. Christmas, they said, was not a religious holiday. In fact, the Puritans objected to the notion of all religious holidays:
“THERE is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord’s day, which is the Christian Sabbath.
Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued.”
—the Westminster Directory of Public Worship
Christians (well, Protestants, anyway) of that time would be horrified to find out that modern day Christians consider the Christmas tree a religious symbol, let alone that Christian leaders would get outraged in a governor referred to such a decoration as anything other than a Christmas tree.
So it was Christians who banned Christmas back in the day, not atheists or pagans or Jews or Muslims. And even the modern so-called War on Christmas was initiated by Christians, not non-Christians.
I’m not old enough to have been around when Christmas was banned in Boston, but I am old enough to remember the campaigns by fundamentalist Christians in the 1960s asking businesses to stop using the word “Christmas” in their advertising and marketing materials. They thought it demeaned the story of Christ to have the “Christmas” applied to things as sordid and mundane as store wide discounts.
Now you have so-called Christian organizations like the Liberty Counsel complaining that that a clothing store chain that made their “nice list” only as some Christmas items in their inventory at Christmas time. Another chain is scolding for saying “Happy Holidays” in one part of its advertising mailer, despite having the “Merry Christmas” and “Christmas” plastered many more times on every single page.
When I was about 10 years old my mom told me that if I wasn’t sure what someone’s religion was, that I should say “Happy Holidays.” At the time she had said, “Because you never know if someone is Jewish.”
There is no law, nor any plot to pass such a law, forbidding people from saying the phrase “Merry Christmas.” We do have a tradition, going all the way back to the Founding Fathers, of a separation of Church and State, so sometimes when citizens sue, the courts have ruled that certain government agencies can’t do things that appear to favor one religion over others. That gets under some people’s skin. It doesn’t matter than every single person who has ever been elected President in this nation has been a person who proclaimed themself a Christian. It doesn’t matter that at least one Christian holiday is an official federal holiday. It doesn’t matter that in many states there are restrictions are what sorts of business activities can take place on Sunday, the Christian sabbath.
They still feel that any recognition of beliefs which differ from theirs is oppression. It’s irrational and paranoid. And I don’t know if any amount of reasoning is going to persuade them away from their delusion of persecution.
DALLAS: Straight Pride Rally Draws Two Attendees. ““I knew that attendance would be low, but I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw that it was just them,” activist Soraya Colli told the Advocate. But according to Colli, only two people showed up for much of the event. Both men were from Boston, the Dallas Voice reported; the local PONG member who organized the march was not present. “Much later, they were joined by a member of the Dallas Proud Boys and a woman named Princess Vanna,” Colli tweeted.”
Chick-fil-a is getting a lot of positive coverage by yet again claiming they will stop donating the anti-gay groups. The problem is, they’ve said it before, and then were proven to be lying afterward, so… GLAAD On New Chick-Fil-A Donations Policy: We’ll See. Since I highly doubt that is is a change in policy, I’m going to keep away from the restaurant. Although I have to admit that one thing about this makes me happy: Mike Huckebee Flips Out Over Chick-Fil-A Policy: They “Surrendered To Militant Anti-Christian Hate Groups”. Anything that pisses off bigots like Huckabee can’t be all bad.
Speaking of hateful people who also claim to be religious:
Most Americans Want Religion Out of Politics; Democrats Should Run With That. For many of us, this is not a surprise…
It is time for another post about news that broke after I posted this week’s Friday Five, this time with a cartoon-worthy villain who has featured in previous posts.
Roger Stone Found Guilty on All Count – Longtime Trump adviser convicted of lying to Congress under oath about WikiLeaks. Who would have guessed that the man who got Richard Nixon’s face tattooed on his back, and has for years lied about being a member of Nixon’s Presidential Campaign (last year the Nixon Foundation issues an offical refutation of the claim because all of the headlines that were referring to him as a campaign aide or a Nixon aide).
In case you don’t recall this criminal, Stone is a longtime Trump associate who, during the 2016 campaign, communicated (through intermediaries) with Wikileaks people to find out what was in those hacked Clinton campaign emails and similar bits of information. When we was subpoenaed by Congress a couple years ago, he denied all of it. He also communicated (often by text and email, the idiot) to others who had been subpoened and told them to lie, threatening them if they didn’t. This week, prosecutors laid that all out to a jury. Stone’s lawyers countered mostly by saying that laying under oath isn’t really a crime (which it is), and even if is it, so what? Fortunately, Assistant US Attorney Michael Marando had an answer:
“So what? So what?” Marando asked, with what seemed like real indignation. “If that’s the state of affairs that we’re in, I’m pretty shocked. Truth matters. Truth still matters, okay.” “…in our institutions of self governance, courts of law or committee hearings, where people have to testify under oath, truth still matters.”
“Mr. Stone came in and he lied to Congress,” Marando thundered at jurors. “He obstructed their investigation and he tampered with a witness, and that matters. And you don’t look at that and you don’t say: ‘So what?’ For those reasons we ask you to find him guilty of the charged offenses.”
—as quoted by Dan Friedman writing for Mother Jones, Prosecutors Just Rested Their Case Over Roger Stone’s Lies: “Truth Matters”.
Of course, this isn’t completely over:
Roger Stone was found guilty. Now all eyes turn to Trump – The president will face pressure to pardon Stone after the GOP operative was found guilty of charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. Donald took a few minutes out of his unhinged rage tweet-storm yesterday smearing and threatening the former Ambassador to Ukraine while she was testifying in the impeachment hearing, to tweet out typical what-about-ism nonsense. Basically, if Stone has to go to jail for lying, why aren’t other people who Trump claims have lied going to jail.
Stone got his pal, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to broadcast a plea to President Trump to pardon him. That fact came up in court on Friday, as prosecutors argued that it was a violation of the judge’s gag order on Stone about talking to the media. In a twist that I can’t say I complete disapprove of, the judge decided that Jones isn’t a journalist, merely a media figure. I’m glad that someone is starting to realize that just because someone posts video lies and distortions doesn’t mean they’re a journalist.
Because, you know, the truth matters.
I know that we’re soon going to be flooded with stories trying to generate sympathy for Stone. After all, earlier this year Stone and his wife were forced to move out of the 9-bedroom mansion they had been renting for nearly $10,000 a month into a one bedroom apartment! Not only that, they had to do the move themselves! His poor wife had to actually rent a U-Haul truck!? On the indignity!
I mention that specifically because one of the claims Trump and his allies have made is that Stone wasn’t even working for Trump when he was talking with Wikileaks and asking for dirt on the Clinton campaign and giving that dirt to members of the Trump campaign. That’s a pretty hard notion to swallow just on it’s own. But Stone’s careers has consisted mostly of getting hired as a consultant or advisor by wealthy men with little or no political experience who are considering running for office, or at least like to threaten to run for office. He’s always made his money by working as a so-called political consultant, and it is well known that he never does anything that he isn’t getting paid for.Someone was paying him enough to continue to afford to rent that big mansion in Florida, to keep buying his ostentatious wardrobe, to keep wining and dining people and jetsetting around while he was spending all that time finding information that would benefit the Trump campaign. If it wasn’t some part of the Trump organization, who was it?
Of course, even if he wasn’t being paid by Trump to do it, it was still illegal. Just as lying under oath to a government entity investigating a possible crime later was illegal. And it doesn’t become legal just because you think some people who disagree with have said things you disagree with and have decided to label as “lies.”
I don’t know if Trump is going to pardon Roger. Roger is, afterall, the sixth person so far to get convicted for crimes on the Trump campaign’s behalf, and he hasn’t pardoned any of the previous five. In Trump’s mind, loyalty only goes one way. You must be loyal to him. He will never to loyal to you. So I don’t think he will.
And, hey, Stone doesn’t get sentenced until February. By then, maybe Trump won’t be the person holding the power of pardoning.
A guy can dream, can’t he?
We’ve called it Veteran’s Day since 1954 — a day to honor those who have served in the military. Our allies still refer to this holiday by its original name: Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. We American’s barely study World War I in public school history classes, and when we do, it seldom includes the whole story: How did the first world war actually end?
November 11, 1918 was the day that the peace accord ending what was then called The Great War. And so each year after we set aside a day to honor those who served, to remember their sacrifices, and pledge to work to prevent wars from happening. At least that’s what we used to say. Since the U.S. came into the Great War later than the other countries, and it wasn’t fought on our country, and the number of our troops killed was a small fraction of the casualty totals of the war, we have never looked at Armistice Day quite the way our allies did. WWII was what loomed large for us, culturally.
In the U.S. this holiday is described as a day to honor and thank veterans for their military service. To me, one of the ways we ought to thank them for their service is to find ways to end wars and bring them home. Unfortunately I get the feeling from certain politicians and pundits that trying to find ways to start even more wars is what they are interested in doing.
I’ve written before about the way we tend to blend our patriotic holidays together. Specifically the misguided practice of everyone thanking people for their service on Independence Day, Memorial Day, and so on. Those holidays aren’t when we should do that. This is the day to do that.
Regardless, if you want to show support for those who served, may I humbly suggest donating to National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. There are, of course, many other fine charities that serve veterans and their families. You can find more of them here: Charity Navigator: Support Our Troops