I’m Thankful, but not for Thanksgiving

History, musings, United States

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.

Your Privilege is Showing

musings, Travel

I find my work in the travel industry a blend of delight and shock on a regular basis. I love assisting others with their travel plans, the tedious nature of piecing together itineraries and activities is an exciting journey for me. In ways it is a vicarious experience, and also a chance to share my own journeys and ideas on where guests are traveling.

The downside is catching the negativity that often comes with travel. In fact, my own mouth has been caught complaining about layovers in O’Hare and cold weather in Scotland.

Yet, one has to pause and really think of the privilege it is to be able to travel in this modern world. In my own case, and for many I work with, we have United States passports, one of the most powerful in the world. In my case I am a white, newly middle class woman meaning the color of my skin brings significant pass. I am of able body and of functional financial means. Travel for me is a relatively easy process, and one that I should appreciate more than I do. The reality is that travel is not a right it is a privilege.

For most of the planet leaving your home country, and even your hometown is unattainable. Poverty prevents many a person from ever being able to leave what they know. Even many of the people I grew up with have not had even closely similar experiences to mine. Many are lucky if they leave the state. For many Americans the idea of traveling to another country is simply out of reach. Full Stop.

Yet we gripe about things like layovers and cramped seats. We fuss over spicy foods, or if a castle isn’t as thrilling as one thought it may be. We act annoyed when water doesn’t have ice, or if it’s hard to get a reservation at a Michelin Star Restaurant. We’re angry because Jiro Ono doesn’t want to serve you sushi. Do we even hear ourselves?

My request is this: really think about what you’re upset about.

When I catch myself irritated that I can’t travel as much as I want to all the time, or that flights to Thailand are 22+ hours, I need to remember the facts of our time. We live in a world where travel is more accessible and more affordable for the average person than ever before. We live in a time where more and more people are traveling, studying, and living outside of their home country. We live in a time of global connections well beyond our wildest dreams of two generations before. So why are we complaining?

When my grandmother was born in 1927 if her family had been able to or wanted to travel to Europe they would have had to do the following:

  • Train from Burlington, Kansas to Chicago, Illinois. Chicago train to the East Coast probably Boston, Massachusetts or New York, New York. Passenger ship travel to London, England or other European port.

This journey would have likely taken two or more week just to arrive on the European continent, let alone your time traveling around or coming home. The point being is that this was a trip that would not have been accessible to the typical working family in 1930s or 1940s America.

In fact, most people didn’t see Europe unless they were in WWI or WWII, and then it was a Europe at its worse, and not the most desirable for tourism. By the time much of the continent had recovered in the 1970s, many veterans began to return, and their families were in tow.

My grandparents never made it to Europe. My grandma dreamed of the fields of Ireland and Highlands of Scotland. She told me elaborate stories of Roman architecture and Vatican wonders; yet she never had the chance to visit. She studied art in college, and she fantasized about seeing things in person, but for her the fantasy couldn’t become reality. Because, in practical Midwestern manners, the fantasy was okay, the real journey was too much. Her generation simply found it impractical unless you had money, and I mean MONEY, upper middle class MONEY.

As we have entered into a world of cheaper airfare and better technology, my travels to Europe and Latin America have been possible. I came from humble means and busted ass to get to do what I have done. In an example, my mom didn’t even know you COULD study abroad; she grew up in the 80s.

So my point is this, next time O’hare pissed you off (believe me, everyone who has been there, has come to this point) just remember what traveling 100 years ago would have been and remember a 3-hour delay isn’t soooo bad.

Remember how lucky you are to get to go, explore, exist, and be in a widely fascinating world. Be grateful that others help facilitate this journey through their service, kindness, and welcoming heart. Be benevolent in your ear, your money (be generous in tipping, and purchases you can afford), and your patience as all of these things make the travel easier. Finally, a smile is a universal kindness, not to be forgotten.

Happy Travels!

Privilege

Ask and you’ll receive, but what about gratitude?

musings

I love the concepts presented in the Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. Ask for what you want the universe will grant your wish and you will be happy and flourish. Which is a great and simple way of explaining hard work, good friends and sometimes privilege.

This isn’t to bash Amanda Palmer or call her philosophy bull shit, but it’s to point out the flaws in such thinking in the wider picture of what I feel are first world problems and ideas. We, as americans tend to believe that we are owed certain things in life. Which no doubt our upbringing and encouragement in public schools enhances that thought process.

We are told, “you can be anything you want to be” which may be true for some people, but for others the goal is extremely hard to reach, if not completely unattainable. It’s unrealistic to believe someone like me that struggles with math is ever going to be an astronaut. Or that someone that struggles with reading will ever be president. It’s not that they couldn’t even do those jobs, but that it’s not realistic that those expectations exist. The reality is that different people’s brains work differently and that some things just aren’t going to happen. Dreams are important, but so is humility and accepting you are poor at something is nothing to be ashamed of.

However, some of the bigger constraints come with our racially and class divided world. Though America tries to label itself as a land of opportunity, it is extremely hard for kids in poverty, or that are part of a minority to get ahead in a way that is on par with their white counterparts. Go here for more information. Beyond anything you are born into sometimes life is just hard. Parents don’t always step-up how they should. Kids don’t always have good encouragement. Some kids suffer with learning disabilities that go unaddressed for years. But this isn’t about education, it’s so much more.

Now I believe that all people deserve educational opportunities and the chance to thrive no matter what they are born into. If we could eradicate global poverty imagine what could get done! And my hope is that humanity will get there one day. Yet in the meantime we need to think about our advantages and be thankful for what we have in our life.

This does not mean we stagnate anything in the advancements of people, or give up on causes, but rather let’s assess how we get anywhere.

We get places because of others. We get places because of our race, and our class and our parents, and how well those things work together to get us through childhood. If those things don’t work together, then let’s hope you have 2/3 or 1/3. Then if not those maybe someone believed in you. Maybe someone worked two jobs so you would have enough food and clothes to wear. Maybe someone gave you free rides to a job, or stayed up all night tutoring you.

Regardless, we rely on other’s and their ability to share their resources with you. So my point back to Amanda Palmer and others is, let’s remember to thank every person that buys a song, and that gives us a cheap apartment. Unfortunately that was what put me off of her book, and why I only read a third of it. It all sounded like a love letter to herself and why she got what she did, not the reality of a massive fan base and supportive relationships.

Let’s thank our parents for keeping us out of debt for school, or for helping us manage it if they can’t. Let’s thank people in our society that have worked for civil rights and have fought for decades to improve working conditions, or women having a right to vote and work. Let’s applaud those benevolent wealth holders that support campaigns to support cancer research and hospitals. All of these things make the world go round.

So let us not forget that when we ask and receive, remember there is someone else on the line. Or when someone asks from you, remember when you asked too. If we all considered this aid system, if we all tried a little harder to hand-out and not just take, then equality may just be more prevalent. I know I sounds like a socialist (okay I kind of am one) but the reality is that human advancement comes with working together. It comes with checking our privilege and making sure we don’t use it to oppress others. It comes with speaking out and helping others up, not with stomping on toes.

No doubt most of you practice many of these principles, but I ask you to really think too how others have helped you in the smallest ways, and pay it forward. Just thank those that have been there. Thank them publically and thank them vocally. Even a cup of coffee can change someone’s life. It has mine.

Thank you for reading, sharing, subscribing and caring about my work!

Rebecca Lee Robinson