I’m Thankful, but not for Thanksgiving

I have mixed feelings around Thanksgiving. Those in Native American communities, justly, feel its a day of mourning over colonialism and genocide that followed earlier settlers in North, Central, and South America. I can’t deny their right to that, in fact I often think we need a day of mourning and honor to that time. Not just natives suffered from chronic colonial policies, but also those stolen from their lands in Africa, subjected to horrific treatment for centuries and even to this day.

I hate that we embrace Thanksgiving in a patriotic way without thorough discussion on the problems associated with romanticized notions around our colonial past. If you talk to many they know a romantic quip on the Mayflower, a largely 19th century fabrication that is about as historically accurate as Shrek. It leaves out vital context on the idiotic behaviors of early colonists. It leaves out the open gates that natives had forced open, establishing a trade that largely left people ripped from their lands, dying drone disease, and massacred at every turn.

In ways it feels as if we celebrated the election of Hitler but ignored everything he did after that. Or celebrated the ships that brought trade and the Bubonic plague to Europe, because trade, and ignored the deaths that followed. At the end of both scenarios, thousands to millions died, and the world was never the same afterwards. Even if we pretend that most colonists were innocently involved, it still doesn’t make the behavior right.

It’s comfortable for people to want a sweet and easy story to share with kids, to celebrate. We want to believe all of those in our past are goodly and had good meaning. Yet, to be honest as a society and people, we must face our mistakes and we must talk openly of what was wrong. This means acknowledging truth to share with our children and friends.

While I am very thankful for all that I have in this world. For my family, friends, education, community, cat, home, car, food, and so very much more, I know that it should be celebrated with more awareness. And this awareness means that we acknowledge our past sins and work to the future.

So maybe Thanksgiving should be celebrated without pilgrims and false narratives, and instead be a time to truly focus on all we have. A time to not try to find the best holidays shopping deals and a time to connect with family and friends. I am lucky that my little family has joined this trend, I hope to see more in the future.

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