I understand the sentiments of people who refute Thanksgiving. There is no denying the devastation that invaders from Europe wreaked on North American natives over the past 500 years. However, to me, Thanksgiving is a beacon of hope.
I think it’s unfair to wrap the entirety of the genocide and displacement of Native Americans up with Thanksgiving. Conquering foreign territory was not unique to European culture at that time in human history. There were even warring Indian tribes across the United States. The myth of the “noble savage” does as much damage as ignoring our shared history. Native Americans are not magical nature pixies; they are human beings with the same gifts and flaws as any other humans.
The feast that occurred in 1621 is not well documented. Maybe the Indians and the colonists shared food that day, and maybe they didn’t. But let’s say they did. Let’s say they were nice to each other, and honored each other’s cultures. Things may have gone horribly wrong from there, but let’s just hold that day in our hands.
There are subsequent massacres of Native Americans for which the Puritans had Thanksgiving feasts. But let’s just keep Thanksgiving simple. Modern Americans rush around, physically and symbolically, all year; let’s honor Thanksgiving for the opportunity it provides to slow down and share a meal together.
Americans should recognize the brutal and unfortunate history of European domination and massacre in North America every day of the year, not just on Thanksgiving. It should be addressed not with guilt and derision but with amends, and equity in legislation and business practices. Thanksgiving can be a time to sneer at everyone and mutter “Thankstaking Day.” Or, it can be an opportunity to recognize the problematic legacy we have in the United States and also enjoy the Earth’s bounty and be thankful for one’s family and friends.