The Contradictory Holiday of Thanksgiving

by Nora Rivera-Larkin, December 6, 2021

While the basis for Thanksgiving is rooted in the concept of giving back and giving thanks to the many positives in our lives as well as a way to reflect on the year, this holiday also comes with some very contradictory underlying tones. The holiday of Thanksgiving serves as a way to gloss over the struggles of many people throughout the years. The pain of the Civil War and the history of slavery, the ignored role of women in the household, and its’ use of reinforcing patriotism and distracting many from the deep sociological issues in America, are some ways that the holiday has been used to promote an exalted idea of the United States and its history. 

The first Thanksgiving, as an official national holiday, is a prime example of how the holiday has been used to smooth over the troubles of a nation. In his “Proclamation of Thanksgiving,” President Lincoln said,

“Peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict…”


This excerpt from Lincoln’s speech shows that the establishment of the holiday was based on the concept of solidifying this idea of unity into a national holiday on the backdrop of a war that tore apart the country. Though it has a positive message and meaning, it hides the intensity of the war and the issues still rampant within the country such as institutionalized racism, the masses of freed yet unsupported slaves, and the continued resistance of the South. In a review of the holiday, history scholar Elizabeth Pleck writes, “Thanksgiving did not unify a war-torn nation, but the holiday probably did help unify the Northern side during the Civil War” (Pleck). While this new national holiday may have been an opportunity for renewed strength and power in the North, it was a conceptual holiday that paid no dues to the ongoing suffering throughout the country and did not serve as the day of remembrance and unification it was supposedly for. 

As time went on, Thanksgiving became more widely celebrated and became a day for relaxation and a positive outlook on the hard work of the past year. But it had some very sexist underlying tones: “As women in the kitchen washed the dishes, and men listened to the game, one could recognize that women (willingly) gave up their leisure, and that men and children benefitted” (Pleck). Though this situation may not be as true in current times given the many changes in the “traditional” American household, the underlying tone may still hold true. A day for celebration and relaxation is often a double-edged sword; the holiday was built on the backs of someone – whether it be a political purpose or a sexist approach – and it continues to ignore its origins and the continued work of the less fortunate. It pays no real remembrance to the work of many and has often become an egotistical holiday geared towards the more fortunate and to the men of the country. 

The final target of this holiday is children. In schools, the idea of patriotism and a sort of “happy past” is widely promoted. Oftentimes, history lessons are smoothed over to protect the image of the country and to hide its ugly truths and origins. As a land of immigrants, people saw it imperative to get children, especially immigrant children, to believe in this idea of a “golden country.” Pleck continues to analyze the teaching of this holiday in schools, writing,

The schools recognized that they had to develop an emotional bond between the immigrant and the nation, a love of country… the home was where the deepest feelings of patriotism were conveyed. Thus, the home celebration of holidays needed to be encouraged to reinforce the patriotism”


Again, the holiday is twisted into a political tactic, erasing its supposed true origins and elements to form a specific idea of patriotism and unity in a child’s mind and then their home. It becomes an ignorance of struggles, of past truths, and the reinforcement of this glossy, picture-perfect holiday used to conceal its true intentions. 

It cannot be forgotten that the true pillar of the Thanksgiving holiday has been political strategy, whether to reinforce the idea of unity even in the face of war, to make an example of the power structure and imbalance between genders in the household, or to become a way to spread an idea of patriotism in the country. Thanksgiving has many ugly truths and it is important that these be taught, without the edited versions that conceal the truths of this nation. It is only when these truths are taught, when we confront our history and understand that it has been painful and unfair to so many people in this country, that we can move forward and make proper change, and hopefully celebrate a future Thanksgiving that not only gives remembrance to our most recent past year but also to the ones far before it and those who have been hurt by this holiday’s history. 

Works Cited

Lincoln, Abraham. “Proclamation of Thanksgiving.” Abraham Lincoln Online, 2018, 

Pleck, Elizabeth. “The Making of the Domestic Occasion: The History of Thanksgiving in the United States.” Journal of Social History, vol. 32, no. 4, 1999, pp. 773–89. JSTOR,

Security vs. Free Will in Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report

by Nora Rivera-Larkin, October 26, 2021

This is an analysis of Philip K. Dick’s short story, ‘Minority Report’.

The age-old conflict of what is more valuable to a society: security or free will. In the futuristic society of the Minority Report, crimes are stopped before they begin, with a triad of machines called “precogs” predicting crimes and forming majority and minority reports based on the possible timelines and likelihood of the crime being committed. This allows the police force to put the would-be offender in a detention camp before they can commit the crime. The idea of stopping crime before it happens is idyllic and a tactic highly sought after in government and military forces. But it presents a moral ambiguity about the true guiltiness of the supposed criminal and raises the question of whether this regimented oversight is simply an abuse of power.

The idea of Precrime, the police agency that deals with stopping crimes before they happen, presents an interesting moral conflict to the reader, regarding whether or not someone is guilty of a crime they did not yet commit and how far the prosecution should go based on suspicion. In today’s society, planning out a crime or thinking about a crime is not illegal until you act in some way on the thought. But Precrime takes the calculations and predictions of machines as a guilty verdict and punishes people before they even do something wrong. This system eradicates the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” and does not even inform the person of their supposed crime beforehand, denying them the ability to even go against their predicted future and make a different choice. Even John Anderton, the head of Precrime, admits, “We claim they’re culpable. They, on the other hand, eternally claim they’re innocent. And, in a sense, they are innocent,” (Dick, 229). This system lends to the idea of a heavily controlled military state, where even supposed dissent is met with a sudden end, no matter your true innocence.

Along with the debate of suspicion of crime vs. actual crime comes the issue of abuse of power. The police, and certain army officials, are presumably the only people with definitive access or use of this technology. This raises the issue of malpractice and misuse by these people. Giving a government force complete access and power over a citizenship that has an overall blind belief — but no actual access to a technology that could imprison any one of them — is a life of fear and control, and an example of informational inequality at the expense of the people. The idea of abuse of power is further developed when Anderton is able to evade law enforcement and his supposed rightful fate in a detention center due to a prediction that he will murder someone. He has the ability to deny that the murder is in his future, and the ability to believe he is being set up, because of his powerful influence and access to the technology, a liberty that was not afforded to any of the people who had been detained prior. He directly represents the privilege of the government and of individuals with overwhelming power: the ability to question his own future and the ability to make a choice of who he wants to be and what he wants to do in his life, something not afforded to other citizens.

Precrime deprives the would-be criminals of their free will and of their choice in a criminal action. People are criminalized for something they have not yet done and are not given the true information on the system that puts them in a detention camp. The society is kept safe, by keeping its population in check with the elimination of free will and cognitive liberty. Precrime provides them with a safer community, but at what cost?

Works Cited

Dick, Philip K. “The Minority Report.” Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Pantheon Books, New York, NY, 2002, pp. 227–264.

The Power of Presentation and Representation throughout History

by Nora Rivera-Larkin, April 20, 2021

History is often subjective, with the primary voice being given to the winners. Accounts of historical events are often biased, and while there is much they can tell us about the people who delivered them, such as the driving force behind their actions and what rhetorical strategies and methods were crucial to their success and failure, objective accounts of history should also be brought to the foreground of discussion and show other perspectives on history, giving voice to people of marginalized communities. Some writers utilize the power of media and genre to enhance their message and to give it the larger platform it needs, like Fredrick Douglass’ speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” and the Munsee petition to former President Zachary Taylor. More recent works, such as the 1619 Project, look back on historical events, giving voice to those who were previously silenced. Written and oral transcriptions of historical events serve the purpose of convincing the reader of an argument, and giving an objective look at the past of this country.

Fredrick Douglass’ speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” demonstrates the power of public forum and the emotional weight of spoken word. Douglass connects the experiences of the revolutionaries that led to the Fourth of July holiday the people celebrate now, to the struggles of the enslaved and oppressed black people. He says, “Feeling themselves harshly and unjustly treated by the home government, your fathers, like men of honesty, and men of spirit, earnestly sought redress,” (Douglass). Douglass intertwines pathos and logos within his speech, playing on the pride of the nation, the citizens who still believe so much in the revolution and their young country, and slowly unveils the similarities between their experiences and those of the oppressed. The very presence of his speech, his articulation, and his ability to stand in front of a crowd, humble but firm, only adds to the message he is trying to convey and only further supports the idea of equality by representing his intelligence.

In addition to the oppression of black people in America, the manipulation of information throughout history is also crucial to the Native Americans exploitation by the American government. This was demonstrated with the Munsee petition, which reminded the president, Zachary Taylor, and the government of the United States of America of the history between the founders of America and the Native American tribes. They wrote, “The Commissioner’s name was Capt. Bullen, who acted on the part of the government of the United States, in making the said important Covenant of peace. He told our people to commit to Memory in their feeble way of entering into Record, such important national matters,” (Williams). The writers of the petition call out the commissioner and the government of the United States, illustrating how they played on a Munsee tradition of Wampum Records which eventually held no value or pertinence to the government. It was a ploy used to manufacture a friendship that would then be abused by the United States government. This is an example of how information can be manipulated and twisted by one side to get their way. The government, encouraging a Wampum Record while knowing it would have no meaning to them in the future served as empty promises in the wake of potential growth and benefit that the government officials wanted at the time.

Though many accounts of history only provide the pieces of information that the winners wanted to emphasize, more recent works provide a more accurate and objective view of the history of this country. The 1619 Project allowed voices often suppressed to be heard, and for history to finally be shown through the lens of those it had oppressed. It identified the hypocrisy in this nation’s birth, saying, “The United States is a nation founded on both an ideal and a lie. Our Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776, proclaims that ‘all men are created equal’ and ‘endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.’ But the white men who drafted those words did not believe them to be true for the hundreds of thousands of black people in their midst,” (Hannah-Jones). A nation built on the backs of those it enslaved and denied rights to for hundreds of years often ignores the voices of those who try to speak up about the truth of America’s founding. Projects and collections such as these challenge the pure idea of the American memory and call it into question. They are the ones who are providing a truly objective view of American history by allowing all sides of history to be properly voiced and considered.

Writing and transcription are very powerful forces in shaping history and shaping perspective. Both written accounts and oral accounts can serve as a complication to the objective view of events, but they can also hold power in analyzing history and in providing cohesive messages of change to societies. The purpose of all of these works is to convince the reader of the side presented, to justify their actions and their side of history, whether it be for colonization or change in society, but cultivating multiple perspectives of historical events is the only way to maintain true objectivity.

Works Cited

Douglass, Frederick. “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”.” Teaching American History,

“Gideon Williams Letter to Zachary Taylor – Transcription.” Scalar: Login,—transcription-uncorrected?path=andrew-newman.

“The 1619 Project.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Aug. 2019,