Tag Archives: Turkey

Thanksgiving 2012: A Collective Amnesia

22 Nov

Last night we inadvertently caught about 5 minutes of the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving episode, just enough to hear Linus declare: “… We thank God for the opportunity to create the New World for freedom and justice.”  Irony much? What an extraordinarily white perspective that does not align with reality. Freedom and Justice for whom?

I often wonder, do 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.

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.  TSM wishes everyone much peace and to be surrounded by love today.

Performing on the World Stage: Presidential or Pratfall?

7 Jan

Not Again!

As the United States has been absorbed in the absurd circus that is the Republican Presidential hopefuls, the media have taken a very American focus on the candidates: What does it mean for us? There is plenty of talk about taxes, budgets, abortion, and the GOP big three (God, guns, and gays). What gets largely overlooked, other than the occasional reference to Iraq and Afghanistan, is our role as a major nation on the world stage. We know that Mitt Romney is a Mormon flip-flop robot, Newt Gingrich is a serial adulterer with a temper, Ron Paul is a faux Libertarian who can’t be bothered to read a newsletter published under his own name, and Rick Santorum is obsessed with men having sex with men. What we don’t know is how any of these candidates would deal with international politics.

As Americans,  shouldn’t we be also asking how will the President of the United States (leader of the “free” world) interact with other major players and show both diplomacy and leadership?  The US took a colossal hit in our world reputation during the George W. years.  The world took a collective sigh of relief when President Obama took office.

I’m asking people to think about how any of the GOP candidates will work with  Prime Minister Yousaf Gillani, or Prime Minister Wen Jiabao?  We also need to look at the very delicate balance of power and influence of  Erdoğan on the world stage.  The world does not look kindly upon bullies and the GOP have proven through the ad nauseam debates that they are nothing but a bigoted bunch of bullies.  What worries me even more is how many of the GOP candidates even know who the world players are. Can they point them out on a map?

When we look at issues of healthcare and how we treat human beings, we need to be willing to learn from our world neighbors.  Currently, the United States comes in at 12th place on issues such as: Life Expectancy, Adult Literacy, School Enrollment, GDP per capita.  Might we need to look to  Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda for ideas around health care?

While I certainly want our President to be a leader for civil rights here in the United States (pro-reproductive rights for women, pro-marriage equality, work to change the distribution of wealth and power) I also want a President that can show true leadership with a calm and clear head, such as President Obama.  We must avoid the shackles of ignorance and isolationism.

Thanksgiving: Collective Amnesia

24 Nov

While I most certainly appreciate time to gather as families over good food, I am struck by the seemingly intentional energy to forget history.  Contrary to what Michele Bachmann tells us, “that all Americans came here for freedom,” I wonder if there is another way to celebrate sacred time with families on the last Thursday of November?

Do 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.

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.

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.

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