It was 2015 when Columbus Day took its last gasp. There were many reasons why it was a really poor choice of holiday, why Columbus was unworthy of celebration, from his not having discovered anything except from the European colonialist perspective, to his having raped an island native when he arrived. Some decided it was better to use the day to celebrate the indigenous people who suffered as a result of his arrival in the New World, their world.
The New York Times has decided to similarly correct the history of Thanksgiving.
Not to rain on our Thanksgiving Day parade, but the story of the first Thanksgiving, as most Americans have been taught it, is not exactly accurate.
By “not exactly,” they mean everything you think you know about Thanksgiving is wrong. Not merely inaccurate, but as is necessarily the case, a story of death and destruction.
A prevalent opposing viewpoint is that the first Thanksgiving stemmed from the massacre of Pequot people in 1637, a culmination of the Pequot War. While it is true that a day of thanksgiving was noted in the Massachusetts Bay and the Plymouth colonies afterward, it is not accurate to say it was the basis for our modern Thanksgiving, Ms. Sheehan said.
And Plymouth, Mr. Loewen noted, was already a village with clear fields and a spring when the Pilgrims found it. “A lovely place to settle,” he said. “Why was it available? Because every single native person who had been living there was a corpse.” Plagues had wiped them out.
Whether this is the “real” history misses the point, and the compulsion to “correct” the record and turn every tradition we hold dear into a story of the horrors inflicted on others to prove how power structures oppress the marginalized. The history of mankind is replete with victors and the defeated, and if the marginalized won, the story would be otherwise and they would be the oppressors. But they didn’t, and history is written from the winners’ perspective. That’s as it’s always been, and as it should be. Yes, as it should be, as one of the benefits of prevailing. There’s a reason we have no holiday to celebrate the mystery of Jamestown.
But Thanksgiving, our most beloved secular holiday, has become one of the most wonderful and inspirational holidays. The story behind it may be a myth, but it’s a myth we need, a myth that serves us well. Sometimes it’s best not to look behind the curtain, to spend one’s time seeking ugliness and reason to be outraged.
On this day, we can choose to enjoy the privilege of our lives and give thanks, whether to family, God or country, that we are so fortunate as to live in a nation that affords us vast opportunity. I’ve no doubt any woke person can provide a long list of our horribles, the people we’ve harmed, those who enjoy less opportunity than others, the pain and suffering that continues in the world, albeit far less so than in the past. But for this one day, look at the good things you’ve got and, for one brief, shining moment, give thanks for them.
If you choose to wallow in misery for the benefit of others, to turn over every rock, every pebble, in search of a reason to be outraged at your parents, you will miss out on the pleasure of a pumpkin pie. If you feel too guilty to enjoy the beneficence this country has given you, go serve the less fortunate at a soup kitchen. They will give thanks for your kindness, even if you can’t find it in your heart to do the same.
Thanksgiving may be a myth, but it’s a good myth, a wonderful myth. Don’t ruin it.
Thank you all for your support. I sincerely appreciate it.