How I feel about Thanksgiving:
It offends me.
I know that it started when I was young.
Baffled by many things as a precocious child, I felt early on there was something not quite right about it.
Okay, I liked hanging out with my oh so wonderfully magickally festive Mom, but…if nothing else: There was the madness of that crazy rush just for one meal on one day, then the next day back to work as usual – at least for the grownups; And being nearly an orphan myself, I always thought about people who didn’t have family to eat with or a meal at all: what about them?; There was also the loudness and horribleness of the bone crunching football special, which would have my brother’s neck arteries bursting under his scarlet face as he roared when someone scored a goal, or didn’t…
But Mom made wonderful food, the house would be warm from the oven – a good thing in the northeast – and smelling of juicy meats, sweet potatoes, and pies…She also often invited someone to our table who had no family of their own to ‘celebrate’ with. One year it was the Apple Cider guy, who had this big ol’ cider barrel he sold delicious cider from on some NYC corner way back when…
Though the three of us continued to gather, at some point my brother and I had stopped being able to talk to each other, and if left alone too long, physical confrontation would ensue – only Mom could intervene, and he had her going, playing forever on what she owed him.
Not as bad as it could have been, but…not the best. Not The Waltons.
Still, a faint aroma of lives lost a long time ago hung in the air, and the Macy’s parade was there, and we were in NYC, and soon it would be Cristmas – a holiday that never loses its glow for me.
But the story of this ‘holiday’, of Thanksgiving…the whole story…
I don’t know when I learned something closer to the actual whole truth; but that too was when I was young.
Though The Searchers was standard viewing in our family – the only one of those movies I was ever interested in repeating viewings of – by the age of 10 I began to wonder why the Indians were so pissed off. I thought: Hmm…really? Are they just burning those houses down out of malice? Are they just “Savages”? Or…Maybe they’re mad about something; maybe something happened to make them so mad…Maybe the White People did something to provoke it…
And that kind of thinking will take you right off the yellow brick road into the dark dense forest of bloody limbs and burned villages, of rape of the land and of people, of lies, of arrogance, of a history rife with vicious sadistic coldhearted villainy, of the premeditated decimation of families, tribes, and species…of really ugly shit. And there is no going back; whatever you thought ‘Home’ was doesn’t exist anymore.
Around the age of 12 or 13, a conscious little Jew and Zionist, I tried to read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. I didn’t make it. I couldn’t get past the first half; I couldn’t stop sobbing long enough to go on; it broke my heart; and I knew all I needed to know.
I knew that the history of White People often left out the beginnings, often left out the ‘what happened before’ parts – kind of like the Bibles do: Who were the Midians anyway? And the Caannanites?
We ain’t all God’s Children I guess.
I knew that the White People had acted like Nazis – I did not yet know that the Nazis had actually copied solutions from these very White People.
I knew that History books lied.
I knew that Teachers and Parents and American Culture lied.
I knew this was ‘stolen land’.
I knew that turkey and Thanksgiving had nothing to do with anything,
except the Thanksgiving Day Parade.
It was hard to give up cute Pilgrim art…
So that’s how it happened: how Thanksgiving became offensive to me; that Veil was removed from my eyes, along with all the other veils that had been torn away by 1972.
Though I loved Miracle on 34th Street, and though I loved being in the warm roasting turkey house of Mama, and though the coming of Cristmas season always excited me, I knew that Thanksgiving was bullshit.
I spent a few years wearing a black band around my arm on this day.
I insisted we actually give thanks for whatever we had that we should be thankful for.
I suppose some Americans, who like things the way they are, could give thanks to their ancestors for doing such a bang-up job at driving the Natives off. As I’ve heard some say: “Well, they lost!”
But I give thanks I know better.
I give thanks for all my beautiful friends, and for all those who have supported me throughout my life.
I give thanks I don’t have to be locked in a house or apartment with a toxic family who gets really scary sometime after five o’clock tonight.
I give thanks that I have a fridge full of food to cook, for myself and others; I try to push through having this little abundance while others are sooo much worse off than me.
I give thanks I’m not in Syria right now.
I give thanks for the beautiful garden that is in my backyard and for the beautiful day to sit in it.
I give thanks that so many people everywhere are connecting, rising up, insisting on another way to be, a better way to live.
I give thanks to all the journalists doing their jobs, all the warriors on the front lines, and all the artists who put their hearts into it.
I give thanks for my relative good health.
And though it is Hanukkah and not traditionally a time for atonement, and though I give thanks for the continuation of the Light that gives our Earth life,
I ask for forgiveness from the Ocean and from the Planets.
I ask for forgiveness from the Native American Indians whose sacred home we have trashed.
I ask for forgiveness from any children I didn’t have.
I ask for forgiveness from my brother for not doing more to intervene in his exile.
I ask for forgiveness from myself for every decision I regret, and for underestimating my own importance in the world.
And I vow to continue everyday to speak what I know when the moment calls for it, to share whatever awareness I have, and to stand up against ignorance, hypocrisy, and hatred, even within myself.