“Happy Day of Abundance and Gratitude”
This is the greeting I received from a colleague last year, in recognition that our mythologized rendition of “Thanksgiving” as a kumbaya time of Europeans and Native/ Indigenous people coming together is pure fallacy. It struck me, when I received these words, that as a teacher of Critical Race Theory, I should have understood the impropriety of perpetuating the myth. And, yet, I am as much a consumer of and partaker in our cultural norms as everyone else.
I gleefully took the annual trip with my son’s class to visit Plymouth, Mass to “see” the replica of the Mayflower, which landed on the eulogized rock. We sang the words to the song “Someone Was Already Here” loudly and with gusto at the school’s weekly school assemblies, but we never really talked about the history of what happened when the Europeans collided with the varied native inhabitants.
I have baked, eaten, and critiqued the quality of turkey (deep-fried being my favorite), consumed stuffing tinged with various ethnic slants (southern-style with turkey innards being my favorite), ladling gravy over mashed potatoes and vegetable sides with abandon. The Macy Thanksgiving Day parade, and the requisite football games have filled my various households, throughout the years with comfort-noise, to accompany the ridiculous amount of comfort food. Thankfully, the pandemic has forced me to be more silent in my celebration, and less reliant on the colorful and noisy stimulants of the commercial precursor to “Black Friday.”
However, not until last year – full of racial introspection and forced self-reflection – did I consider the real legacy of “Thanksgiving”. That admission is slightly embarrassing. It is also liberating.
Now, I should be able to really celebrate what the day means. It is a day of gratitude. My people, who were brought here as captives, are legally free but not yet hierarchically equal. Our country continues to have opportunities to live up to its ideals, opportunities we keep throwing away. The people from whom this land was wrenched are still here, but we have yet to make them fully visible to our national vision. (When we do, we will no longer feel comfortable characterizing them as cartoons or mascots). The abundance of human spirit continues to nourish the foundations of our decaying world.
I would love to say that I had entirely removed “Happy Thanksgiving” from my repertoire of holiday sayings. I reflexively said it dozens of times today, already. That is what it means to be socialized in our culture. My son reminded me of the wisdom I had discovered last year. And, I am redoubling my efforts, again. Not because there is anything inherently wrong in the words, but because the sentiment and the fiction, those words are meant to evoke are built upon a lie. I will once again wish us all the grace and abundance that our Creator has laid before us, if we but deign to pick them up. Happy Abundance and Gratitude Day – 2021!