Thanksgiving is a lovely holiday. Its reason for being has pretty much remained intact: to be with those we care about and to metabolize not only good food but good things. Thanksgiving is wonderfully inclusive, and is not predicated on faith in a particular religion or allegiance to a particular group. Even the parade is just for fun. On the other hand, while affirming and enjoying all that Thanksgiving offers, we need to be honest, and proactive, about Thanksgiving Past and Thanksgiving Future. The First Pilgrim Thanksgiving that we commemorate would not have been possible without the help and support of Native Americans. That small British band of immigrants would not have survived without the Wampanoag Indians, and those who proudly chart their heritage back to the Mayflower would not exist.
Yet only 50 years after that First Thanksgiving, the Wampanoag people were no longer free; this being only the beginning of the systematic genocide of Native Americans by European immigrants. It would be as if modern Mexicans began the systematic genocide of White Americans. Forthright honesty is an essential prerequisite to healing, whether it is between individuals, ethnic groups, or nation states.
And, finally, in terms of future Thanksgivings, commercialism is now encroaching on one of the only major holidays that has so far been able to escape it. “Black Friday” is meant to put retailers in the black, while possibly putting shoppers in the red. Black Friday has now officially invaded the late-day hours of Thanksgiving Day itself, and will continue to metastasize unless we refuse to participate.