Well, of course I mean Thanksgiving, silly. I just queered the name a little to make you stop and think, if only for an instant. And you did, didn’t you? Good.
We didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving at my house. My wife had to work; all my family is in Illinois and Texas and British Columbia and the East Coast; hers is all in Japan. But really, I’m okay with that. I think I would have been a total sourpuss if I’d had to cook the traditional feast again.
Because the thing I can no longer ignore—and that I believe all of us Euro-Americans must come to terms with—is that the traditional Thanksgiving story, taught to us in our childhoods and reinforced year after year through the conventions of the holiday—the story of a friendly harvest feast shared between Pilgrims and Indians—is a myth, if not an outright lie.
Pardon my bluntness, but the Pilgrims were murderers. It has been said that the storied First Thanksgiving was really a commemoration of a massacre. While I cannot vouch for the truth of that specific claim, what is well documented is that in the early years of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, European settlers roved through the countryside, burning down Native villages, destroying Native crops, and slaughtering Native people when they could find them.
By the way, my principal authority for this is Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. You may disagree with Zinn’s bottom-up view of society or his left-leaning politics, but as far as I know his work has never been debunked on a factual basis.
You should also look at this commemorative plaque placed by the Town of Plymouth, Mass. I would think that the Plymouth town council knows better than most what took place in their town.
“Okay,” you say, “I get it. We should put on our hair shirts and beat our breasts and hate ourselves for being such terrible, oppressive White people.”
Now bear in my mind that I am myself a European-American, and do not claim to represent any Native tribe, let alone all Native Americans. I’m just speaking for myself, but in solidarity with indigenous peoples. In any case, I have never heard Indians saying that we are terrible people because of what our ancestors did, or that we should give up celebrating the harvest or sharing good food with our friends and families.
What I believe we are called to do is, first, to face the truth about our violent past; and second, to work toward changing our violent present.
Wait a minute, though. We don’t slaughter Indians in cold blood any more, do we?
Well, no we don’t. And although it is said (and I am inclined to believe) that the conditions of life on Indian reservations are a form of violence by Europeans against Natives, I don’t know nearly enough to really argue that point, so I’ll leave it for others.
But I do know that our country continues to kill people we consider inferior. Mostly, these days, outside of our borders, in places like Pakistan, Palestine, and Colombia, but as far as I am concerned, human life is human life, and killing is killing, and if you can’t agree with that simple point, I really wonder about you. I could cite a number of examples, but let’s focus on one well-documented case: President Barack Obama’s “kill list.” This is just utterly, incredibly, wrong, and if we Americans want to be worthy to walk among the civilized peoples of the earth, we need to stop this.
So how about this for a new and more honorable Thanksgiving? Let’s “pay it forward”: first, by supporting honest, hardworking, local food producers; and second, by committing ourselves to breaking our country of its addiction to violence and exploitation.
In other words, have the feast, have the family gathering, but instead of stuffing ourselves with grotesque quantities of supermarket food, buy local; buy quality; keep the quantities moderate. And as we have our feasts, let us think about what we can do to put our country on a better, more humane, course.