Thanksgiving this year sucks.
I’m not saying eating delicious food sucks, I’m not even saying that your particular family gathering will suck (but let’s be honest)—I’m saying that our Thanksgiving for 2016 seems a festival of hypocrisies that denies the very origins of this country. Almost 400 years later, we are still celebrating the unbelievable hospitality of the native people we then proceeded to treat with so much worse than callous disregard.
They welcomed us, aided us, and our eventual response as foreign invaders was to steal their land and destroy their way of life forever.
Now, I know YOU specifically didn’t do this and I didn’t do this. But this great country of ours was built by “conquerors,” for lack of a better word, and it seems small consolation that we still give thanks for naiveté of the Indians in not killing EVERY LAST ONE of the Pilgrims while they were still at a HUGE advantage. Most of the survivors of the voyage were women and children; one well-planned ambush and the history of the world is altered forever.
But they welcomed the Europeans and most of us, me included, are glad they did.
This Thanksgiving there is talk of the possibility of deportation of as many as 3 million immigrants—a number claimed to be based on criminal records–except according to the Center for Immigration Studies, that number is actually closer to 180,000. Only off by 2.8 million—a number that’s closer to Hillary Clinton’s popular vote lead! Math is fun!
“The ends justify the means” is one of those sayings used pejoratively as often as not for good reason. As a species we should have evolved enough from the time of the Pilgrims to understand that some prices are too high to pay for victory—our integrity being chief among them. The idea of “taking back” America is missing an essential truth: we are an amazing nation of immigrants, the American Melting Pot; people of all races and nationalities and religions working and living and dying shoulder to shoulder. This is what gave us the potential to be great in the beginning.
You can be a European; you can be an Asian; you can be an African and so on…but THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A REAL AMERICAN. Unless, of course, you are talking about the descendants of the indigenous tribes. It doesn’t matter how many generations of your family were born here, they originally came from somewhere else and that is your heritage and your lineage. When you are the second owner of a house, you never get to say “I built this thing,” because it will always be a lie. You inherited it, by hook or by crook. You will always be the new guy.
Unfortunately our government-by-the-people is often a store bought commodity on both sides—the wealthy, the corporations, and organizations like the NRA are pulling the strings of the puppets they’ve paid to put in office. Our dream of religious freedom allows zealots to bully and marginalize; our dream of equality for men is far from realized, never mind women. Our dreams of freedom from tyranny have been shaken to the core by political enemies known and unknown. Our right to bear arms has become another oppressor; because of the many years of Republican rule in the House and Senate, we have no way to keep them out of the hands of the disillusioned with rage driven agendas.
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Our dreams of open arms welcoming the huddled masses, as our ancestors were once welcomed, are all but in tatters as we hear and face real, promised threats to deport those already here and then build “a wall” to keep others from entering our home.
We can not return to the ways of the old world, a world where oppressors rule, where might makes right, where the ruling class makes decisions that serve only their best interests. If you are buying into that agenda, then I am very, very sorry for you. As hateful as our ancestor’s abuse of indigenous people seems in retrospect, they lived in a superstitious, narrow-minded, survivalist world…kill or be killed, to the winner the spoils. That is not where we live today, nor should it ever be where we live tomorrow. Sophocles wrote: “All concerns of men go wrong when they wish to cure evil with evil.”
We look at the hate crimes already enacted in recent days and we must all ask ourselves: “Are we with them, or against them?” Because if your answer includes the exclusion and marginalization of people different from you, you are with them. You are part of the problem, not the solution. Our ancestors came to this country hoping for a fair deal, no matter who they were and when they arrived. They wanted a chance to succeed, a chance to live their dreams, an opportunity to worship, work, and live as they chose. Some took this opportunity by force; some fought tooth and nail for it, but all were allowed.
Now, we have immigrants being targeted, talk of registering Muslims, and regular talk which degraded and demeans women. We are facing a shift back to anti-choice and anti-LGBT rights. Other than white men, it is hard to find a group that is not being attacked, including the land itself with environmental plans that will prove disastrous to our planet.
But for every right we have fought for now being stripped away, for every group marginalized and denigrated, for every voice disqualified, our humanity cannot be taken. Our decency cannot be taken. Our active responsibility to each other cannot be erased.
This Thanksgiving, we give thanks for our voices, for our right and responsibility to stand up against hate, misogyny, racism, xenophobia. As the Pilgrims sought a new world to avoid religious persecution and tyranny, we seek new resolve to stand our ground and fight against these things as well. In a bit of karmic irony, it is now our way of life that is under attack; the “self-evident” truth that “all men are created equal” and “endowed with certain unalienable Rights” as our thesis statement has never been more at risk.
John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress famously wrote “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
Until those with the most power recognize and respect the rights of those with the least power, we will never really be “the land of the free.”
True thanksgiving is gratitude for all we have, most importantly each other. Let’s work together for the next four years to make sure everyone has a place at the table.
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