Posted by: minnow | November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving: It’s Not PC

Liking Thanksgiving these days is certainly not politically correct. And yet, it is my favorite holiday.

I am angered by the way we, white Americans, treat new immigrants. I am also embarrassed (is that a strong enough word? perhaps not) let’s say disgusted, by white America’s historical record regarding our treatment of Native Americans. Still, the story I grew up hearing every year as a child is one of the few that put Native Americans in a good light via a white lens. They saved us. They shared their feast with us. They taught us how to plant corn using fish for fertilizer. Does anyone else remember those stories?

As a child in Montana in the sixties, I wasn’t taught about how we tore families apart, put children in boarding schools, and destroyed every remnant of the Indigenous culture we could. I didn’t learn how the US government killed Native Americans with small pox infested blankets, hunted them down, rounded them up, and forced them onto reservations which became smaller and smaller as more white settlers wanted land. I wasn’t told about the trail of tears, a 1200 mile journey to “Indian Territory”, a march on which thousands of Creeks, Cherokee, and others died. I did not know the truth about white treatment of Indigenous people groups, many of which were completely obliterated. As a white person, I am ashamed of those facts, ashamed of my white history, and now ashamed of our treatment of new immigrants.

Still, I love Thanksgiving. To me it means family and lots of dessert! Stuffing is my favorite part of the traditional meal. And, since most of my children lean toward the mashed potatoes and gravy like their father, I luck out. Thanksgiving left overs are the best–yummy turkey sandwiches and more pie! Our family typically played board games after the big meal. If we were at the grandparents we could count on the Macy’s Day Parade in the morning and football in the afternoon. And laughter–in my memories there is always laughter around the table, in the telling of old stories, in the gentle kidding of siblings, and in the joy of being together. Though I have to admit, in the most recent Thanksgivings there has also been tension.

A dozen years ago I walked away from organized religion. Five years ago I separated from my husband. For four years we tried to make the holidays as “normal” as possible–I came back to town and sometimes even stayed at the house. We had a meal together and played games as a family. But it was confusing and created stress. We couldn’t recreate what we had because we were not all on the same page anymore. This year our youngest son invited everyone to his house. His youngest sister is joining him. I dropped her off on Tuesday. My oldest daughter is working Thanksgiving. And, my middle son had surgery on his wrist on Wednesday so is recovering today, Thanksgiving. (Fighting my own infection I couldn’t be with him).

Even before the other distractions, I had decided to opt out of the holidays altogether this year. I need to start over so, I am not going anywhere for Thanksgiving and won’t be going anywhere for Christmas. Instead, as fate would have it, I have another distraction and will be packing boxes for a move. (My landlady needs more space and has generously given me two months to vacate).

So, here I sit, on my favorite holiday of the year, trying to reconcile all my feelings. Guilt, sadness, and anger mix with joyful memories and a longing for family and friends. I don’t want to beat myself up, even if it’s not PC, for liking Thanksgiving. Instead, I want to renew my respect for this holiday and change its meaning. We need to repent of our history of oppression and abuse. And we need to find a path forward. For me, taking steps forward begins with thankfulness which is what this season has always, personally, been about.

I am thankful on this Thanksgiving as well as every other day of the year for the people in my life, my relative good health, and the opportunity I have to do things I enjoy doing. I am grateful for my five children who like to tease each other, don’t always understand each other, sometimes worry about one another, but always love one another. I appreciate having two months to find a new place, pack up my boxes and bags and stuff, and transition to a new roof over my head. I am thankful for that roof, wherever it may be. I appreciate this little town, as conservative as it is, because even though I’m a newcomer I’m greeted in the grocery, waved to from passing cars and offered help if I need it. I feel safe here, even if a few think I’m nuts for being a liberal. I am fortunate for a family heritage of hard work, honest dealings, standing on principles, and taking care of one another. And, I am thankful I can learn about my past and choose not to repeat it–personally or historically. I am thankful I can choose to be thankful and appreciate new opportunities to change and grow and give back. I cannot undo the past. I can acknowledge the pain that has been a part of it, however, and I can vow to make a different future beginning today.

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