There is an old saying, history is written by the victors. If you ever read a native American account of what American Thanksgiving is, you will understand what I mean. Thirty or forty years ago it felt like there was little unrest about what seemed like historical norms. Concerning Thanksgiving:
The Indians in Massachusetts had a friendly harvest meal fostered by the Native Americans helping the colonists
This truth has been carved and etched in commercialized American folklore. As I have written before, Peanuts specials, textbooks, documentaries, and countless Thanksgiving feasts have been built upon this quiet truth. A truth that, as we moved into the late 20th Century.. appeared to be be built on total lies, deception, and murder. Everything about it is nothing more than a commercialized fable culminating with a cartoon turkey and a happy pilgrim. In fact just about everything we took as solid red, white, and blue bedrock has turned to crap. Think about it.
I don’t know when it started but at one point in my youth I heard that Columbus Day was a joke. Columbus was a rapist and murderer that perpetuated a genocide that led to scores more in North America and ended with a nation prospering over a bed of injustice. Wait a minute, Columbus was a hero right? He sailed the sea to discover America and blaze a path that led to the great crimson, blue, and white superpower we are today. Columbus day may have been one of those unfruitful minor holidays that only bankers got off but how could a man we awarded with his own day be this evil? Where did we go wrong in our thinking and make such a tragic mistake? How could we not see that Columbus was nothing more than a Nazi sailing the seas to doom the EXISTING residents of North America? And this shock has followed as one historical event or trusted institution comes under scrutiny as a lie. It seems to be one thing after another. Conspiracy movies, Presidential wiretaps, the reality that our country was built on oppression and slavery and the sad reminders of a decimated Native American nation who live in the shadow of an extermination program our country fostered…
Flash forward to 2017
Following a brutal election season, we were reminded that America is not a coherent symbiosis of Freedom. It is not even a melting pot. It is a mess of lies, mistruths and angry minority groups looking to rewrite a new history challenging the heavily propagandized version we were fed. Maybe a better image would be a melting pot full of things that don’t mix. I picture masses of different material boiling over, cackling, and exploding, with deplorables crawling over the side, leaving the confines of what should be a peaceful creation.
From stories of groups, proclaiming life, then assassinating cops on site, to a struggle of whether to partition a border, we are reminded that our history is a fabric of deleted truths and selfish ambition. We are reminded that no choice really sounds good and no piece of history is really clean. I mean were they founding fathers or slave owners? Are we a prosperous nation, or benefactors of slavery?
Back to Thanksgiving
So I am preparing for Thanksgiving in 2017, light years from an elementary school where I made pilgrim and simplified native American costumes to celebrate this happy holiday. I will prepare a traditional meal full of things that weren’t even at the first Thanksgiving. Not little things like the wrong kind of corn, but big things like turkey (yes, there was probably no turkey at the first Thanksgiving). I am thankful for food, shelter, and clothing, but in the back of my mind I am reminded of a Native American population that views Thanksgiving with resentment and anger, watching the descendants of a group of invaders prospering from their genocide. We are a long way from Charlie Brown Thanksgiving specials now. In fact the first Thanksgiving was not even in Massachusetts in 1621, but in Virginia in 1619, celebrated by a group who would later be slaughtered by the original settlers of the land, the Native Americans. My guess is this Native American group did not view the Colonists arrival and future conquest with “Thanksgiving.” This Thanksgiving story would not have a made a good kids special. Can you imagine a cartoon where we show the colonists lying in a pool of blood while the Native Americans celebrated their freedom from the invaders from Europe, followed by a feast with song and dancing.
Think for yourself
So how do you reconcile all this? I wish I had an answer. I will take the high road and say two things:
- Get the facts..all the facts
- Think for yourself
Look for multiple opinions and versions of history. Study both and think critically. You will have to learn to live in the ambiguity of knowing that human nature didn’t fade away when Columbus stepped foot into the “new world”. History is messy, bloody, unsatisfying, and often cruel. You will have to write your own conclusions and carefully see different viewpoints, not the easy acceptance of what is fed to you by historical marketers.
Get The Truth…From Williamsburg Walking Tours
We present the truth about Colonial America, Via Williamsburg, with a goal of telling the truth, not marketing something that appears to exonerate the deeds of the path. Join us on a tour now and start to think for yourself.