I've been trying to figure out what it is we celebrate on Thanksgiving. "A bountiful harvest," we're told. A bountiful harvest the Europeans would not have had, had the indigenous "savages" of the Western Hemisphere not taught them how to produce it before the Europeans decided the continent wasn't big enough for all of us.
This has, unfortunately for millions in the world over the past four centuries, become the pattern of the United States as a culture and as a nation. We come smiling (most of the time) and then strike mercilessly and without, it would seem, conscience of any kind. What kind of people, one wonders, has NO conscience? And what might be the eventual destiny of such a people?
European capitalists snatched North America from the native civilizations that had lived here for thousands of years and, in a matter of only two centuries, have all but destroyed it, building cities that even many of us now seek to abandon. The process of laying waste to all of the beauty and abundance that had sustained itself for millions of years has now unapologetically poisoned the soil, polluted the air and waters, and exterminated the wildlife to the point of extinction. But first had to come the genocide of the indigenous human protectors of all the natural magnificence the Europeans so coveted and then so destroyed.
So we will belly up to the table today -- those of us who can afford to do so (and the statistics tell us that we are fewer than ever this year, with one out of ten in the U.S. not having enough to eat, many of these being children) -- and we will eat our way into a stupor. This "celebration" is to thank whoever we thank that we have much at the expense of others, that we are "safe" in a world where we support making others unsafe, that we have a "right" to do whatever we must to maintain our strangle-hold on the resources of every other people in the world, even our "allies," and to maintain that strangle-hold by any means necessary, knowing full well the ultimate result of such a plan for mass collective suicide.
What we need to be grateful for is that we have not, as yet, met our demise as a nation and as a people, that we can yet set a different course. There are repeated examples throughout history of populations who lived long in bondage and then struck out on their own for a promised land with no idea of where that was or what it would look like. Perhaps we, too, need to set our hearts toward the highway, as it were, to opt to survive and flourish rather than struggle and waste away, in bondage to a way of life that increasingly bewilders and reduces us. As more and more of us are touched by the cancer of our addiction to fear and materialism, more and more of us will come to imagine (as John Lennon once suggested) a different, better world, where we can be proud of something besides our credit limit and our military might.
In the meantime, we might want to be grateful, as well, that there are still remnants of the indigenous peoples we so summarily decimated. Their history is long. Their wisdom is deep. And if we learn to honor what is true over what is illusion, if we look inside our hearts instead spending all our resources decorating our social and physical outsides, if we ask for the guidance we so desperately need from those who have lasted so very long even in the face of ruthless attack on every level, perhaps there is hope for us yet.