Friday, November 29, 2013

Don't Ruin Thanksgiving!

[This post responds to several posts and comments I've seen on Facebook in the last 24 hours surrounding the "reality" of Thanksgiving. While the comments and cartoons are in and of themselves incisive and funny in varying degrees, I contend that the protesters are misguided in their application of justice on this one. Here I am responding to one friend in particular whose Facebook post showed a photo of a Native American and a written statement quoted below:

"White men tell the children that their ancestors settled here. When the truth is that they invaded us, they murdered us, and they raped us until we barely existed. Happy Thanksgiving."]

Normally, I would fully support this, Chad. I have a degree in U.S. history and a minor in African and African-American history. I attended graduate school specifically to earn a degree in military history and completed everything but my grad thesis. In all that time, I extensively researched oppressed cultures around the world including slavery in the U.S., European Jews through the first half of the last century, the Northern Ireland cluster, the destabilization of South Africa, and yes, "Native Americans."

I'm not denying the point made, nor am I condoning the circumstances of "the first Thanksgiving." I know the history. We white people tend to suck in hindsight.

What I offer as a counter is this: Particularly in my years on these here social channels, not once -- ever -- have I read anyone's championing of this day as the day we (white folk) took over the continent.

That many of our ancestors did is as indisputable as the tens of millions of Native American lives lost in the process. Though if we wanted to maintain the veneer of full denial, we could blame most of those losses on bacteria and viruses and natural elements like the weather which accelerated their propagation.

What I *have* read (and written) hundreds of times each year in this social world of ours is a collective expression of love and goodwill to all from my hundreds of Facebook friends/family. Further, this is combined with an outpouring of love and appreciation mainly for time spent with family and close friends, and even mourning of those who can't be present for various reasons.

Long story short, the vilification of Thanksgiving is better and more properly reserved for Columbus Day. In our age and presumably for a few generations before us, the day of Thanksgiving is understood to be a time at which we can all come together with our specific gene pools and remember old or make new positive memories.

Let's enjoy this one nonreligious, otherwise socially non-confrontational day for what it has become while knowing all along that it, like many other traditions, was borne out of tragic circumstances and ill-conceived motivations.

I'm proud that my 10-year-old understands that Columbus was a mega douche on a Hitlerian scale. That is reality and not revisionist history. The first Thanksgiving is a fantastic, patriotic hook upon which many children's books, stories, and cartoons are based. We also teach our kids to believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and "God."

Columbus Day celebrates at a national level a specific invader whose legacy begat the destruction of the indigenous people. We've since proven that Vikings landed in North America long before Columbus, yet they apparently didn't introduce the same devastating diseases upon the locals. Why is that, I wonder? I have my theories.

I implore you to please let us have one positive, uncontested holiday which, socially, is already accepted as a coming together of families so strongly that the days preceding it are among the top travel days across the country.

To some, traveling home (or away) for T-Day is perceived as an obligation. As Cinderella sang, you "Don't Know What You Got (Till [sic] It's Gone)." Hate T-Day as you will, but when asked later about missing loved ones, I wager many people would cite memories forged on that fourth Thursday of November as some of the most significant and resilient in terms of family history, tradition, and bonding.

Save the disdain for Columbus Day and leave my annual family/friend feast alone. In fact, let's please change the name to something even simpler: Family Feast. Doesn't that accurately sum up the gist of the intent? I believe it does. And it removes and tragic connections to the past ... for ... one ... day.

Institutionally, we'll all know the history, but in this case alone I argue, let us please accept the day for what it has become. Let this one day be a positive one (disregarding the stereotypical family feuds, of course). And let us thank whomever that we enjoyed the experience or at least have a great story to tell. Okay?

What are your thoughts on this? I'm eager to learn the opinions of my readers.

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