Walking in Gratitude: Thanksgiving 2017

23 Nov

While I am trying to walk in gratitude and be thankful right now, I must confess that it is a struggle. I am exceedingly grateful that I had successful cancer surgery and for all of the many people in my life who have been so loving and so supportive of me! And, I am struggling that now they want me to do six months of chemo. My struggle regarding chemo pales in comparison with how I am struggling to survive living in the United States with a bizarre monster for a president, and today I am committed to being in a place of love and gratitude.

Trump’s support of Roy Moore is nothing less than monstrous. Alas, for today, I offer an invitation to all people: invite some joy and some gratitude. For those of us who are truly fatigued by the Trump administration  and his putting party before country, can we know that we are not going to change the hearts or minds of his base supporters. What we can do is show up in bigger numbers to the polls.

But for today, can we tap into shared humanity and be grateful? I am going to try and hold the messiness and the tension of the horrific ways in which we have treated and still treat native peoples, while also walking in extraordinary gratitude for the amazing and lovely people in my life — people who provide light and love and sustenance for my soul, for my heart is full.

I will hold the tension of our history and invite joy at the same time. I am reflecting on how we collectively, as Americans, conveniently choose to forget the genocide of the native peoples living in North America – the use of bio-warfare?  Yes, multi-generations of white folk have benefitted from the slaughtering of indigenous populations in North America and stealing land. It is ironic that the early survival of the Plymouth colony depended so heavily on the agricultural and fishing advice of the Wampanoag. To all the GOP governors who say “no” to Syrian refugees, I remind you that you wouldn’t have states to defend in bellicose, racist, and — yes — unconstitutional rants if a certain set of religious refugees had been treated similarly 500 years ago.

The whole idea of a “first Thanksgiving” is historically murky at best, with both religious and civil harvest festivals easily traceable to the Spanish in St. Augustine and British colonies in Jamestown and Plymouth. The native populations also had histories of harvest festivals, thus rendering a colonizer’s claim of “first” another in a series of misappropriations. Regular Thanksgiving celebrations as fixed civil events became common much later, dating to the 1660s.

As with so much of early colonial American history, most of what we “remember” is filtered through centuries of creative reconstruction: bucolic paintings, myths of noble savages and honest oppressed British outcasts, grade school songs and pageants. It is understandable that we prefer not to dwell on our collective responsibility for the decimation of whole populations, but it is an important part of our nation’s history. The colonizers’ relationship with the native populations was complex (and occassionally grateful) but seldom benefitted the natives and almost certainly did not involve everybody sharing a lovely meal around a table in peace.

Let us not forget this was no mere land grab but a decimation of Holocaust proportions. Our mistreatment of the indigenous peoples in North America went on well into the 20th Century with the Termination Act, Allotment, and the creation of Boarding Schools where white people thought their job was to “kill the Indian to save the man.”

The root idea of Thanksgiving — shared by the Europeans and the indigenous peoples — as a celebration is a good one. Be thankful for what you have; celebrate the cherished loved ones in your life; take time to remember what is good and bountiful with no expectations of gain other than shared love and thanks. Let us move forward as a nation, correctly learning, remembering, and growing from our history. Let us work hard to return to this spirit of Thanksgiving. It need not be buried in any trivia: upcoming shopping orgies (conspicuous consumption), 437 sporting events, overindulgence for its own sake, or cute “historical” imagery that overlooks a complex history.

We all have people and events in our lives worthy of celebration; that is what we should use today to be truly thankful for. I hope everyone reading this blog will be able to spend time with cherished loved ones, be it families of origin or families and communities we create. I leave you with this a song by Emeli Sandé, Highs and Lows, for I am so grateful for all the people in my life that love and support me through the good and the difficult times.

14 Responses to “Walking in Gratitude: Thanksgiving 2017”

  1. vharman November 23, 2017 at 10:20 am #

    Thank you Michael, for such a brilliant Thanksgiving message. I’m sorry you have cancer and all the shit that goes with that diagnosis.
    I learned more history from your entry, which opened my mind, heart and soul. I thank you very much. This Thanksgiving I have hope; for your healing, unity in the United States, and peace.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt November 23, 2017 at 11:37 am #

      Thank you for reading this article and for your well wishes! Yes, let us all focus on healing and unity in the US and in the world. Peace, Michael.

  2. le artiste boots November 23, 2017 at 10:30 am #

    So glad you are better. Making time for ourselves is a great challenge. The world has to get sicker before it can improve. It is not just Trump who is awful, just a symbol. Stay well. Keep reminding us to be the change-agent.


    Sent from my iPad

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt November 23, 2017 at 11:38 am #

      Bettye, you are truly quite wonderful! I always treasure you and your blog! Much love and peace to you!

  3. brianarbenz November 23, 2017 at 8:26 pm #

    The important thing is, you had successful cancer surgery! Yes! That is a huge relief, tempered of course by the knowledge of the trials yet to come. But I am so happy that you have overcome the most important one.You mean so much to us! … And look out right ring, Michael’s back and he’s as good as ever!

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt November 24, 2017 at 6:07 am #

      Brian, thank you for all of your kindness and support. You are such a generous human being and I am so aware that the work you do helps make the world a better place. Much love, Michael.

  4. Jay Borcherding December 8, 2017 at 5:58 pm #

    What a lovely post.

    I’m that sort of friend that is so murky that one might wonder if the friendship still exists.

    But I assure you, despite my manifest deficiencies, I hold you, and Robert, with such esteem and warm thoughts.

    I did not know of your cancer. Just as you know little to nothing of my current situation. But I can tentatively assert that I’d doing okay, and muddling along in a fashion suitable to my deeply flawed but amiable manner.

    And I certainly hope you are doing well. Both of you.

    And of course all my Oregon and Washington family.

    My estrangement–is that the word? I hope not. I’m a strange one, I freely concede, so perhaps that unpleasant word is apropos. But my distance is more to due with my own shame and self-loathing than any reflection upon any of your behavior or attitude.

    My memories are rich. And Robert in particular is a man with searing moments in my long term memory, which of course we know is structurally and functionally quite a different thing than what we had for lunch. Mr. Wences’ hand’s resemblance to Carol Channing may evoke a giggle, as would something as abstruse as “EENY OONY WANNA! EENY OONY WANNA! by a chap in a Far Side cartoon pointing at some children infesting his tree, treehouse included.

    I meant to get there for the eclipse. I’m such a coward! I hope you all had one hell of a good party for that event. Shame on you if you did not!

    All kidding aside, I kind of suck at relationships. But I know I love Robert, and Tad, and Zot and Meags. Sigh. Robi I pined for, ah alas. My real world Phoebe Cates–the impossible beauty.

    I grow obscure at times. Sentiment does fog me at times, but I like to think of Robert and Michael and smile that you guys found one another and are making each other feel safe.

    Listen to Tim Minchin’s White Wine in the Sun and think of me. Like many elderly people, my view in some sense have rigidified. A word? Perhaps not. Mere agnosticism is insufficiently bellicose, alas. I’ve become almost an anti-theist, so fierce is my denial of the monotheistic traditions. Polytheism doesn’t work for me either, except insofar as it involves some excellent legal recreational weed and an appropriately dopey mindset.

    But I digress in unpleasant ways. My scorn for Trump is immense. George W Bush was a pillar of stability and reason by comparison. Never have I been so unpatriotic as to believe that the most dangerous human on the planet is POTUS. Astonishing.

    History has NOT ended. We are living in a historically very important time. The future of our civilization is more in doubt than I thought imaginable in my lifetime. In such scary times, the urge to cuddle and huddle together is strong.

    So I thought of people I loved, and learned you have suffered a terrible illness, and decided to reach out in my awkward manner.

    We’re all African apes after all. It shouldn’t be expected that we understand things so ancient as the universe, so small as a quark, so large as the Sun, so significant the love that these fairly hairless apes can somehow muster in the darkness of the night sky.


    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 9, 2017 at 8:10 am #

      Oh goodness! Jay, your reaching out here is truly a magnificent gift! I must confess, it hurts my heart to hear your description of your self as, “self-loathing,” as I know for certain, that Robert, Zot,Meagan, Tam, and Michael and I, have only unconditional love for you! Please know how much we all want to see you and be a part of your family! Just give us the word and you can stay here and we will all surround you with love and open arms–which I realize may feel too intense for you, but may nourish your soul all at the same time. Jay, you are truly and profoundly loved!

      • Jay Borcherding December 12, 2017 at 2:41 pm #

        Many thanks for your compassionate and empathetic response. And your invitation is welcomed and I may take you up on that at some point.

        My job does entitle me to significant PTO. Besides the political climate, the ACTUAL climate here in the Valley of the Sun becomes intolerably hot to a heavy set fellow such as myself during summer. Summers in Portland and Seattle, by comparison, are idyllic.

        So perhaps while this hellish place is doing its best to resemble Dante’s Inferno, I may retreat to the more comfortable climes of the northwest and pay you a visit.

        I am a flawed house guest, but I am not without manners, and of course would happily treat y’all to a couple nice dinners out. Portland is quite a foodie hub, and my appetites for certain pleasures remain undiminished, despite the dismaying decrepitude that a half century of a mildly decadent life can cause.

        We can see one another and marvel at the ravages of time, and reflect upon our vanished youth and beauty. Sigh. I was never very beautiful, but I did squander my youth. Still time to make up for things, while we breathe there remains hope, and this universe is a little more friendly when one has some friends that have some context and understanding.

        I’m not an easy one for getting to know, you know, so those few people that “get” me should be cherished. I’ll work on that.

        Happy 2018!

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 12, 2017 at 5:41 pm #

        Oh Dear Heart, please please do come and visit and stay with us! Please know we have nothing but unconditional love for you! Robert and I are those queer folk who create our family of choice–you are part of the family we choose! See you in 2018! Love, Michael.

    • Robert Hulshof-Schmidt December 9, 2017 at 8:14 am #

      Eeny Oony Wanna! right back atcha my friend. And please know that I can see neither a skull, nor a suitcasse, nor a long red bottle of wine without a joyously wistful thought of you.

      • Jay Borcherding December 12, 2017 at 2:48 pm #

        I remember your howls of laughter, when I dubbed your placement of some small poster ‘witty’? Oh the darkness, that laughter. That was early going, perhaps our first night as roommates? We had some good laughs, didn’t we? I never understood Barb, but I always understood you Robert.

        “Kill the people. Kill ALL the people…..Knock if off Bill!” This from your Freshman year roommate in his sleep, an amusing anecdote as I was never fond of Bill. He was not a very respectful or pleasant person to me, I hope he grew out of his bullshit tendency to condescend.

        And i said something in my sleep once, that trip for Model United Nations. Something about the nature of time that you later reflected upon with a “Whoa!” There was an implied profundity.

        If you remember what I said, please refresh my memory.

        And Robyn Hitchcock! You provided the playlist for our college years, the non-obvious connecting point for a disparate but clever and kind group of young people. And pinochle! Good times.

  5. Jay Borcherding December 8, 2017 at 6:11 pm #

    More to DO. Not due.

    Sloppy typo. Apologies and laughs.

    • Robert Hulshof-Schmidt December 14, 2017 at 7:08 am #

      Oh, yes, the moment of “witty” came early. Thank you for pondering time rather than mass murder in your sleep. I believe the comment was, “the funny thing about time is, just when you think you know what it is, it changes.” Something like that. Thanks for making me smile over memories of music and placards – glorious. I miss you.

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