Thanksgiving is a problematic holiday. Colonialism isn't just a ghost that haunts America: it's its skeleton. For many people, Thanksgiving is a day of mourning:
"Thanksgiving day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. [...] It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience."
The story of Thanksgiving itself turns out to be more or less true, although the identity of the Wampanoag tribe is often abstracted away in retellings. I found this interview with the historian David J. Silverman to be fascinating:
In the short term, intertribal and even intra-tribal politics is what's driving Native American responses to Europeans. A better way to think about this period is not in terms of Indian-colonial relations, but rather to think of European colonies as just another tribe in a dynamic, highly competitive, intertribal environment.
Traditions are a series of whispers that warp and transform history from generation to generation. Yesterday, we commemorated this complicated inter-tribal alliance by eating a turkey, and celebrating that we were all still here, gathering together.
I'm conscious that we're able to treat this day as a celebration because we're descended from the Europeans who stole land and committed genocide. Perhaps particularly so because we're also descended from Jews who had their land stolen and had genocides committed against them - although it's important to say that the one fact does not give us permission to ignore the other.
So it's complicated, to say the least. But right now, in the wake of hospital stays and surgeries, if I get a chance to sit around the table with my entire nuclear family, and better yet cook for them, I'll take it. I'm grateful that they're all still here, and that I get to be here with them. I'm thankful that my family's values are that we all want a more equal world, and that everyone deserves to have a good life. I'm thankful that my parents have been activists, anti-war organizers, and people with a bias towards action when it comes to making the world better. And I'm thankful for all the people around the world who today still fight for that equality.