Thanksgiving is a conflicted holiday for many of us. Despite the sacred civic myth that has grown up around it, Thanksgiving as the USA has come to celebrate it has roots in colonial violence and hides a much more complicated history. (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/thanksgiving-myth-and-what-we-should-be-teaching-kids-180973655/ ) But in 1863, Abraham Lincoln was not as interested in historical accuracy, or in reckoning with the nation’s colonial violence, as he was in creating a unifying national holiday amid the terrors of the American Civil War. Over the centuries, our collective avoidance has perpetuated a lot of harm that we are hopefully beginning to address. There are, after all, good reasons why many Native communities call it “Thanks-taking.”
The conflict comes when people (not me) have fond memories of Thanksgiving and genuinely enjoy the traditions and gatherings. Having just passed through another year of civic myths, televised parades, football games, and comprehensive coverage of Black Friday sales, it’s probably a good moment to reconnect with that kernel of goodness in Thanksgiving. That is, gratitude is truly essential to our health, both personally and socially, and practicing gratitude is something we can all do to make life better for ourselves, others, and the earth.