I write to you from that cozy little patch of calm and productivity between Thanksgiving and Christmas, where we all scramble to tie a bow on this rapidly dwindling year, before our brains turn to eggnog.
I noticed that this past Thanksgiving seemed to be more politicized than ever. And let me tell you, dear readers, I am here for it. I know there were many admonishments from pundits and family alike that we should all mute our opinions on that day of feasting and gluttony, but I think that holidays like Thanksgiving are the perfect opportunity to talk about why we’re all gathered around the table. Thanksgiving, after all, is the ultimate American holiday, a yin-and-yang of brutal history and contemporary promise. It’s a lot like Passover, when us Jews celebrate our deliverance from the bondages of Pharaoh—except that Thanksgiving is like telling the story from Pharaoh’s point of view.
But I think it’s a holiday worth salvaging, if only because it does seem to be almost universally accepted in this country—no matter your heritage or ethnicity—as a day to come together with friends, family, and hopefully a stranger or two (and #thanksgivingclapback alone makes for a truly unique online experience). Going forward, I hope we can indulge a little less, and use this day to really talk about this country’s history, and how some of the genocidal threads of the early settlers still reach into the present, and what we can do about that. And take it from the Jews—you really can eat and talk politics at the same time!
I feel the same way about Christmas. It’s a beautiful story worth telling, ideally with an ample supply of festive sweets and something warm in a mug. A young, poor family—mother on the verge of giving birth—is refused shelter, only to find it in a humble manger, where even in such dire circumstances a child comes forth, who—like all children—has the potential to bring peace to this fucked up world. Of course, how that story has been interpreted has taken a million different directions, some of which come back to haunt us (see: Thanksgiving). And we should tell this story the way we would any other classic of the human canon; that is, gleaning what it can teach us about our own lives and our own times, good and bad. And like all stories, we should treat it as something beautifully written, but no more the ultimate truth than Star Wars or Harry Potter—certainly nothing to go to war or destroy other people over. No single story or book ever is. (Speaking of which: come hang out with us at the Bookfair this year on December 8 at Gasa Gasa. Save the Shelf!)
I wish everyone a safe, happy holiday and new year. I know it’s tough for a lot of you, so I just hope you can find your manger, that place (humble though it may be) where you can feel a little peace and comfort, and maybe bring something good into this world. See you in 2019. —Dan Fox
December 2018 Cover illustration by Ryan Blackwood