Thanksgiving is an important part of our shared American culture that brings us all together. Like many of our holidays, it’s origins have very little to do with why it’s important today. Many holidays were created out of thin air just to unify America, particularly during the massive influx of immigration from the mid to late 1800’s.
Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays (now combined into President’s Day), Flag Day, Arbor Day, Columbus Day (sorry-Indigenous People’s Day) and others were all created to bring a diverse country together. And it mostly works.
The popular Thanksgiving fable has its origins in the story of the Pilgrims and the Indians indigenous to New England in the mid 1600’s. This has merged into a sort of harvest festival that finally became a national holiday after the Civil War. It coincided with the huge group of immigrants that arrived From Eastern Europe, Ireland and Southern Europe. This human wave lasted until America shut it down in the 1920’s.
Today, all of the descendants of the wave of immigrants, along with newer waves of immigrants from Asia, Africa, Mexico, South America and Central America will enjoy gathering with their families, watching football and launching the Christmas shopping season together. I believe that this is our best holiday and uniquely American in the way we celebrate and the activities we choose surrounding it.
There are some who reject Thanksgiving now because to them it represents something about the exploitation and destruction of much of Native American culture. The Pilgrims represent the beginning of the end. Fair enough.
But like all things American, it’s much more complex than that. I think you can recognize the good ideals that America strives for at the same time acknowledging our flaws, like allowing slavery and the destruction of Native American peoples. In the main, we are a greater force for good than evil
There are two ways to look at America. Is it a force for good or evil in the world? I believe that America, with all its flaws, is still an example of freedom and liberty and serves as an example for others of what is possible for them. For that, we should all be thankful.
Remember that historically, we always get better and fix our mistakes because we do subscribe to higher ideals as a people, diverse though we may be. We desperately need our shared values and culture in order to move forward as a country. So enjoy your feast, help others in need to the table as well. I hope your football team wins and the lines on Friday aren’t too long.