Featured Society and Culture

This Week in History “While giving Thanks…”

There’s a fascinating dynamic and recurring trend throughout the portals of history — and if the saying is true that history is really just a “pattern of events” then the Spanish-Columbus/Indian and English-Colonist/Indian narratives can be best understood as concentric European relationships.

How are these historical events and narratives alike? How are they different? Today, we can still analyze and decide what pieces of information are most relevant to the facts and discussion of where that truth actually takes us, but one cultural phenomenon remains quite undisturbed:

“In classrooms across this country, Columbus Day and Thanksgiving remain firmly in position and in such a way that the events themselves become as ‘one living memory.’ A memory that creates a fictitious world of both ‘make-believe and fantasy’.”

One part is that a man with both confusing geography and sense of being is venerated for doing something that he didn’t actually do (and that no one should ever want to take credit for actually doing) and the other is a group of ‘Colonists’ representing everything thought to be “pure, holy, and righteous,” as if to purge the collective consciousness of a nation that still can’t seem to wash itself clean.

It’s just like all political narrarives; the ones you are told often enough are the ones that actually become “true.”

Neither event being historically accurate or grounded in the reality of fact — of either America being ‘discovered’ for the first time or its first ‘official’ “festival of thanks” ever really happening as foretold.

The 1637 Massacre will hold the presitgous honor, by John Winthrop (1588-1649), the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who declared “A Day Of Thanksgiving” after 700 unarmed men, women and children had were murdered in Groton (Mystic) Connecticut. This most celebrated, “bloody win” and victory “set off a dinner bell” amongst surrounding colonists. This one horrific event, leading to victory after victory with so many preceeding ‘Thanksgiving’ celebrations, such that George Washington insisted that they only choose “one day” of celebration as to keep everyone on track.

The convenient juxtaposition of these two institutional narratives (Columbus Day and Thanksgiving) is just that. A historical rearrangement and assertion of both facts and fiction. “They are the national hallmarks born out of a ‘social etiquette’ and political convenience of those who ‘won’ their battles.”

It should also be noted, and never forgotten, that both of these “American memorials” claim within them a divine providence and “connection” granted by ‘God himself’ to usurp the rights to other people’s land, personhood, and property.

Here is where we find the concentric circles of our American History. “Thou shalt not covet,” “Thou shalt not steal,” “Thou shalt not lie” all whisked away in their greater glory. Religion and politics can be an impregnable force against anything in its path. Unfortunately, millions upon millions of souls were in their way.

From 1616-1619 at least 90% of the New England native indigenous population was decimated by wars with the colonists and foreign disease.

AMerican COlonies; Volume 1 of the penguin History of the united states series
Connecticut can safely take credit for our National Holiday.

So, what can really help us process the plethora, and seemingly unending abundance, of “unsettling information” during these times of increased “cultural awareness” and social ‘consciousness?’ It is to try to understand what has happened to us as a nation by first identifying what has happened to us as “individuals.” To understand our own personal journey as citizens within the social experience. One of those moments begins this way. . .

“The year is the fall of 1975 and I can still remember the ‘ditto sheets’ and cutouts of those infamous ships, The Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria. I remember the coloring and the pride that followed in ‘doing an excellent job’ to showcase our important work on the classroom board.

Engrained in my mind, unquestionably forever, was this one educational and cultural experience above all others, making an ‘indelible mark,’ yet having a “hot branding iron” effect on my subconsciousness.

I then transitioned, without any time seeming to pass in between, to a highly emotional event. This is a ‘Thanksgiving gathering’ with such a ‘hypnotic-like atmosphere’ of family euphoria with an abundance of food, good humor, and merriment. Of all-day festivities, and then sweet rest. It’s an ‘earliest memory’ wrapped up in so much warmth, security, and love as to create an unforgettable experience and special time that is absolutely precious in the life of an ‘impressionable’ child.

This American cocktail was an all-powerful one. A once-a-year concoction that you could never just forget about or stop looking forward to happening again. A mixing of ‘national holiday’ and family sharing’ that seemed intoxicating, even seducing at that time. Never once stopping to think twice about ‘fact or fiction,’ as it relates to the real reason we are all giving thanks.”

-An ‘American girl,’ age 5
  • As we get older we realize that the very nature of our fun and celebrations is all too often lived at the expense, atrocities, and horrible experiences of others. We begin to accept that the primary importance of these founding holidays (Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, 4th of July) is for governments to use their powers to create policies and culture that brand the psychology of its citizenry. To establish the absoluteness of its “nationhood” and state in the minds, hearts, and wills of its people – in such a poignant way – as to never awaken the “senses of the masses.”
  • Putting the pieces of our common history together is like an open-ended jigsaw puzzle. Requiring much patience and time, and a strong will and determination to resolve and deal with the many missing, misplaced, and even discarded pieces of information.
  • Still, yet, there has never been a more exciting time to be alive – where we can string and thread so much of the past together in hopes that we can better understand the present and redesign our future.

If we can ever learn to see history from the standpoint of others, we will become better and stronger people in these here United States. This year, let’s challenge ourselves to see our relished holidays through the lens of neighboring cultures and groups – instead of through the history of stoic nations and states. If Henry Kissinger was right, that “History is the memory of states,” then we owe it to ourselves not be a part of that problem.

When we begin to understand that the person across the room may have a different version of history, not because they are a liar or fabricator of stories and events, but because their “experience” is very different than ours. Because they have inherited a legacy and version of history so very different from our own.

A people’s history doesn’t begin until they start telling their own story. A free nation cannot be safe until its citizens have the liberty to share their history.

Today, on Thankgiving Day, can we at the very least “acknowledge” that native peoples -and their descendants, African peoples -and their descendants, and other color groups –“and their descendants” have a starkly different ‘American’ inheritance and experience than that of an Englishman. And that includes that of other White immigrant groups now absorbed into the European hegemony and culture. Until we are able to accept this very translucent reality of fact, we will never even come close to decoding the ‘race and color’ conundrum.

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