I love Thanksgiving. The homecooked feast, getting drunk with family, an absurd cache of leftovers ensuring turkey sandwich lunches for weeks afterwards. But every year when it comes, one of the biggest things I’m thankful for is the fact that I’m not going to be slaughtered and have my children raped by a sparkly-eyed, syphilitic Dutchman.
No, I’m not one of those bitter bastards who can’t have fun on Thanksgiving. But I think it’s important to understand that the old “Thanksgiving Story” from the elemenary school textbooks is one of countless cultural fictions implanted into the minds of our children, in a school system functioning as the primary vehicle by which children are taught not history, but the revisionist history written by Anglo conquerors.
Native people celebrated many Thanksgivings…in fact, some give thanks daily as part of honoring existence, life, nature and everything within it. When Dutch settlers came the Indians, with no concept of land ownership in the European sense, graciously allowed the new settlers to use the land for basically nothing in return. The settlers figured Hey, these savage, half-naked jackasses are giving us all their land. Let’s take more. Long story short, it was a case of cultural confusion that ended with entire civilizations slaughtered basically to extinction. There was a lot more to it than that, but my main point is emphasizing the outrageous degree of difference between the popular fable that is actually taught in schools as fact and what actually happened. We all owe it to ourselves (and the Indians whose land we still live on, dammit!) to look deeply enough to learn the true story of Thanksgiving.
If anything, I see the development of this relatively-new Thanksgiving myth as a sign that, as a people, we’re deeply ashamed of the darker truth. So during your holiday feast, enjoy the wine and the family. Reconnect. Share. Don’t be a drag on your family by jabbering about “the Thanksgiving slaughter” through wine-stained lips, and don’t bunch up into a miserable ball of sobbing white guilt. But don’t celebrate the slaughter of millions of people with the slaughter of millions of fattened birds, either.
Just do Reality a favor and try to learn what happened. Use it as an opportunity to learn something new and, perhaps, to apologize in your own mind to some of those who were killed for your country’s happier version of history. Oh, and enjoy your turkey. Hopefully it doesn’t come out too dry.