We are in the midst of the crazy marathon that is the holiday season. I spent the last few days at my parents’ house in Greencastle, PA enjoying time off work with my family. When I asked a co-worker last week what her Thanksgiving plans were, she said she and her family don’t recognize Thanksgiving because they are First Nations peoples and don’t want to celebrate “imperialism.” Wow, right on. And this got me thinking, why am I, as an activist and peace builder, celebrating Thanksgiving?
It’s easy for me to take a moral stance against a horrible holiday like Columbus Day because I have never celebrated it and, therefore, am not giving up too much by protesting it. But holidays like Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, while both equally steeped in imperialism and lies, are harder for me to bypass because it would mean giving up quality family time.
But while I’m off stuffing my face with an unnecessary amount of calories and being thankful for all the shit I don’t need let alone deserve, there are people I know who cannot celebrate these holidays because they know their souls will not let them.
It kills me when I hear about people more concerned with “keeping the Christ in Christmas” than keeping the truth abut our nation’s history in the forefront of our minds. We still send our kids to school dressed as “Pilgrims and Indians” for gosh sake– stereotypical much? We still have a professional sports teams like the Braves and the Redskins that further stereotype our First Nations’ peoples using logos of tomahawks and Native Americans in headdresses. And now we have school boards in Tucson, AZ banning books about Native American and Mexican American history in the U.S. (the real history of the U.S.). And we let this happen!
And as much as I want to protest this by not celebrating these holidays I realize that there are other ways to protest our imperialistic past (and present). One step is by talking about what really happened on that “First Thanksgiving” and recognizing the atrocities our ancestors have committed and the atrocities we are still complicit in. Another way is to do away with Columbus Day all together and celebrate Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples Day (yes, it is a real and beautiful holiday).
Reclaiming, that’s where we can start. While it is much easier to continue celebrating American holidays as we always have, what if we got to the point where our souls wouldn’t let us continue watching football and eating turkey without thinking about the truth behind what we are celebrating? So, for me, when it comes to these holidays in their current state I have no choice but to say, “Thanks but no thanks.”