When given the chance to remember Thanksgiving, many of us fondly conjure memories of pumpkin pies, mashed potatoes and giant hunks of turkey being consumed while surrounded by our closest family and friends. We are told that this tradition comes from the first “Thanksgiving” meal that was held by pilgrims and the Native Americans to celebrate the pilgrims’ first harvest. We don't often focus on what happened next: as more pilgrims flooded into the country, the Native Americans were regarded as a dangerous group of people that needed to be defeated so that more learned and civilized men could use the vast expanses of the land they inhabited for “nobler” purposes. Wars were fought, people died and this land’s original inhabitants were gradually regarded as nothing more than cogs in the capitalist war machine. We dehumanized an entire race of people simply for the sake of conquest, yet most of us remember our relationship with the Native Americans by this first “Thanksgiving” feast.
We could assume that these things didn't happen, we could just pretend them away, erasing the blood and tears that fell from each person as they were cut down by foreign invaders. Imagine the last moment, the painful realization that your country is being taken away from you as your family is dying by your side. Imagine the cold calculation of those “great” military leaders as they vowed to protect their people from the “savagery” that supposedly defined every Native American’s psychology. It doesn't take a historian to understand the travesty that occurred then and how it would forever affect generations of those displaced by this painful moment in history.
I'm not suggesting that we forgo our festivities and live in quiet sadness contemplating the darkness of our past, but something can be done. In addition to the Native American community, there are still plenty of people marginalized by society at large today: black people, the LGBTQ+ community, hispanics, and women need our support and consideration more than ever right now. It is our moral and ethical duty to stand up for these and other repressed groups by speaking out for them and letting them speak for themselves. If you find yourself unconvinced of the seriousness of these people’s situations, seek them out and listen to their stories. Exercise compassion and tenderness as Jesus does. Then, in the true spirit of thanksgiving, be thankful that you chose peace over war and love over hate.