Thanksgiving: Good? Bad? Both?

I don’t know about you, but I’m running on fumes going into Thanksgiving weekend.  I'm thankful that I don’t have big family obligations or a tradition of Black Friday shopping, because I really need some hours of rest, reading and writing and, if I’m lucky, laughter.
 
It’s the first week since I re-started Thriving Thursdays when I don’t have a piece already in the works that I feel good about sending out.  So, I thought of just finding a picture of a cornucopia full of harvest vegetables and fruits with an “I’m thankful for you” message — which is true, I am VERY thankful for you, the Thriving Thursdays community!
 
But the problem with that idea for me is that I can’t just say “Happy Thanksgiving” without acknowledging that there are serious problems with this holiday. 

Just because it’s not technically religious like Christmas or Easter.  And just because it’s about gratitude and good food, which most people agree are good things – that doesn’t mean we can gloss over the pain and suffering that are also part of this story. 
 
I don’t have the ability to write about all of the complexities this morning, but my struggle with my “Happy Thanksgiving” is a great example of right where I’m living right now in the challenge of Life. 

I’m working with being big enough to hold the hurt and the hope together.  To hold oppression and being oppressed in one story.  To hold the incredible goodness of human beings with the incredible awfulness that is also so often part of who we are and how we live in the world.
 
A holiday dedicated to gratitude is a beautiful thing.  America is a nation that has much good in it and I’m thankful to be a citizen of this country. 
 
AND…
 
The way that European Americans broke treaties with and caused (and the ways we still cause) all kinds of suffering for Native Americans, some intended and some unintended, isn’t something I can gloss over with a cute picture and a blithe “Happy Thanksgiving.”
 
Acknowledging the both/and is messy business.  It’s easier to eviscerate the horrible white people (and/or the evil meat-eaters) – call Thanksgiving evil and go vegan OR call Thanksgiving good, say prayers and label those who question its goodness as over-reacting liberals, who are unreasonably angry and ruin all good things.
 
Family gatherings can give us good practice with this though.  Because in our families we often have to work with the both/and of human beings:

  • that grandparent who is sexist, but who we know loves us. 

  • the brother who is in the military, when we are committed to peace activism. 

  • the sister who is a peace activist when have family members who died in military service and see her work as a slap in the face to them. 

  • the Christian, or the pagan, whose religious beliefs seem so WRONG to us - or whose beliefs label US as being SO WRONG.

 
So often we have people in our families whose views cause us—personally, at our core— immense suffering AND YET we also know that they also love us deeply. 

We feel pain and anger and deeply disagree and ALSO see their beauty and goodness. We know that they don’t intend the incredible harm we believe they are causing, or at least supporting. And yet they are causing harm - and we wish they would see that and take responsibility, or at least acknowledge that possibility.  
 
It is not easy, but somehow, sometimes, we find a way to hold the both/and. 

Sometimes we don’t.  Sometimes we can’t. 

But sometimes we can. 

And when we can hold it all, we take a step towards healing and reconciliation for all of us.
 
So, my hope for you all (and for myself) this Thanksgiving is this:
 
May you grow just a little bit bigger, so you can hold just a little bit more of the harm and the hope that is your heritage.
 
May you find the strength to take one more step towards doing your part to bring more of the latter and less of the former.
 
May you find rest and restoration and laughter and love in the midst of suffering, oppression and big problems that need solving— but can’t all be solved today.

 
 Here’s to thriving – and justice.
 
Deb
 
P.S.  Two great books by Native American authors that I highly recommend.  Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer - Elizabeth Gilbert described it as a "hymn of love to the world."  I loved listening to it on Audible - it's read by the author.  And, Whereas Poems by Layli Long Soldier (which has won multiple awards.)  I learned about the latter by listening to an interview with her on On Being.