I am a first-generation American citizen. My mother was a refugee from Germany in 1951. My father naturalized in the mid-50s from Italy. And while I am thankful that I didn't grow up in war-torn Germany or in poverty over in Italy, I've never really felt "home" here.
This past year I have doing a new layer of digging to understand myself better, and more importantly, learning new tools to become a more authentic me more and more every day. My word of 2023 has been compassion and I've been focused on living according to what St. Francis of Assisi prayed, "to seek to understand, rather than to be understood." I'm at the point where it's too hard for me to stay silent or just yes people to death and hold in the resentment. As MLK Jr. said, "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it." Staying silent is no longer the right thing for me to do here.
Matthew 23:23 Jesus calls out the religious leaders and says, "With false faces, you are careful to do what tribal law says by giving a tenth of each little herb in your garden, but you ignore the more important instructions such as justice, kindness, and honesty."
What does this have to do with Thanksgiving? Everything.
Here are the three main reasons I no longer celebrate Thanksgiving and officially denounce it as an evil tradition that continues to perpetuate injustice, hate, and lies.
Reason #1: Genocide & Oppression
How long has it been since you knew the truth about the "first Thanksgiving?" If you haven't heard or read the Native telling, here's an article that has several links to do so.
"At noon on every Thanksgiving Day, hundreds of Native people from around the country gather at Cole's Hill, which overlooks Plymouth Rock, for the National Day of Mourning. It is an annual tradition started in 1970, when Wampanoag Wamsutta (Frank) James was invited by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to give a speech at an event celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival and then disinvited after the event organizers discovered his speech was one of outrage over the “atrocities” and “broken promises” his people endured." (ICT article)
It's now been 402 years, and still, Americans gather around dinner tables every year as if nothing horrific happened. As the quote above from James Baldwin states, "Nothing can be changed until it's faced." When will you face this truth?
"Learn to do what is good.
Correct the oppressor.
Defend the rights of the fatherless.
Plead the widow’s cause."
I'm doing my best to keep learning and listening. My heart is guided by God's justice. Now I'm speaking out to correct the oppressors. Thanksgiving is an evil tradition, one that as a believer and follower of God's will for me, I can no longer "celebrate" and have a clean heart and conscience. I will continue to listen to Indigenous voices and Isaiah's guidance to keep on the path of change for God's justice.
Reason #2: Traditions Are Guilt Trips From Dead People
I'm not saying all traditions are bad. But if we blindly keep doing something just because "It’s the way we’ve always done it," we're not looking for Truth. I grew up in a religion where we weren't able to ask questions about things. But by not asking why we are doing something, what we're really doing is not seeking the Truth, or not seeking to do the best we can. I learned about this quote from Maya Angelou a long time ago, and I try and share it with everyone. "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." Just like the above point, sometimes change needs to be faced and then acted upon. It's up to us to take that action, once we realize something is no longer serving us or others. Does it happen overnight? Of course not. But we have to keep doing the best we can until then. Our actions affect other people, whether we see it or not. Living with integrity allows us to move from a hyper-individualistic life to a life with community and connectedness, as is God's purpose for us.
"Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for his mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness!"
Reason #3: Be Thankful Always
I began reading a book by Dennis R. Edwards titled Humility Illuminated. He beautifully describes how humility is at the core of justice. He writes, "Humbling oneself starts with yielding to God which leads to a way of life that pursues human flourishing."
Being thankful in all things has allowed me to become more present for myself and for others. Being grateful and present allows me to become more humble in places that may be uncomfortable. Living in the present with gratitude and humility leads to a better understanding of myself, others, and the bigger picture as well. Saying 'thank you' brings us outside of ourselves. That's why I love this quote from Alice Walker, "Thank you is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding." Anne Lamott expresses a similar thought saying there are three main prayers we need: "Help. Thanks. Wow."
We don't need one day or one season to be thankful. It's supposed to be a part of our daily prayer life. Give yourself the gift of trying out a gratitude practice. Find some friends to try it with you. See what a difference living in gratitude makes in your life, and in the lives of others.
"Dance for joy at all times! Never stop sending up prayers. Give thanks to the Great Spirit in all things, for this is what he wants from you as you dance in step with Creator Sets Free (Jesus) the Chosen One."
Lord, I pray these words you have placed upon my heart reach those who need to hear it. I pray that they seep into my being and become a part of my everyday life, so that I may walk more like You and see more like You every day. May Your Wisdom and Peace reside in our hearts always and may we come to You in our pain and in our celebration, knowing that You hear us and love us and will continue to be with us and run after us. Lord, I pray for the Indigenous people who continue to struggle with oppression and suffering. I pray that Your Peace wash over them and they stand strong in their lament and in Your glory. I pray that more and more people stand with them to honor their journey and sit with them in the Healing. May we be living to seek Your Justice, Honesty, and Kindness in all we do. May Your will be done by all of us bringing Your kingdom here on Earth.