If I can, I would like to focus on what I believe is the contemporary intent of this Holiday, rather than the historical origins or the fractured mythologies that surround it.
That could be seen as cover for acceptance of those mythologies, ones that elide the alternative narrative that is more historically accurate, and probably more reflective of our divisive times, but it is not meant to do so.
However, I do not think that a single paragraph is capable of rectifying the two. I think it important to note that on this day when we are taught that we should be with family and close friends and give thanks for their presence in our lives and thanks for the bounty (sadly out of reach for so many) that we have inherited, others see nothing but a celebration of racism, conquest and genocide.
In 1970, the town of Plymouth, MA, the site of the landing of the Pilgrims and their colony that would have failed had it not been for the largesse of the Wampanoag people, erected a plaque which reads:
NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING
Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. To them, Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their cultures. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.
Erected by the Town of Plymouth on behalf of the United American Indians of New England
That day, 400 years ago this year, began as a day in which love, respect and empathy for fellow human beings was expressed at its fullest. It was offered by native peoples and accepted by European colonists.
We are all heirs to the aftermath, which has expressed anything but love, respect and empathy. Just this past year, the US government once again violated its own treaties with tribal nations.
And just this year, tribal nations, in coalition with others, helped elect a new President.
Who I hope will honor their support and the support of the other minority communities that helped elect him, by paying more attention to them and the injustices that they continue to experience.
This year, what I would like my fellow human beings to give thanks for, is the continued tolerance and engagement of minority communities throughout this country; their fortitude, their rectitude, their strength, their continued bearing up of the true ideals of what this country is supposed to stand for and so frequently doesn’t.
I also hope that you are home, safe in your bubble, being thankfully responsible during this time of pandemic and political upheaval.