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Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014

I Should Have Known Better!

Posted Thursday, November 19, 2009, at 1:00 PM

There are some things you just don't do!

You just don't tell Sarah Palin jokes when having lunch with the county Republican Committee chair. You just don't talk about yesterday's great program at Rotary when eating with members of the Kiwanis organization. You just don't mention having given blood at a blood drive when sharing a meal with gay friends.

"Open mouth, insert foot!" My grandmother used to joke that this should be my Native American name. And there are times when I unfortunately still live my life out of that philosophy.

I was with children when they were talking about the Thanksgiving holiday and all they would be doing to celebrate it with family and friends. One asked me whether I liked Thanksgiving and I just didn't think when I responded with "it's not one of my favorite holidays."

I should have known better!

I had to try to explain my answer to children that weren't going to understand the complexity of my response. Yes, my family always got together on Thanksgiving and ate ourselves sleepy. The men always gathered before the television and watched afternoon football games. Thanksgiving was always a time to enjoy being with the family and having two days off of school!

Yet Thanksgiving involved hearing about the Pilgrims and how THEY served the Indians, those "poor Indian" people as my second grade teacher used to proclaim. Thanksgiving stories in school involved how the western European settlers gave us our form of government and not how they borrowed its organizational format from the Iroquois tribes along the north east territories. And children played games that involved "the whites" shooting the Indians who only had tomahawks with which to defend themselves.

I couldn't figure out how to say that to the children who asked me whether I liked Thanksgiving. I still haven't figured out how to explain this to people who have never seen the racial "superiority" included in many of our stories and customs. And while this incidence of the children asking me about Thanksgiving happened nearly thirty years ago it has caused me to be very cautious about sharing my honest feelings about the holiday.

I love the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. I love turkey and eating so much that you take a nap after the meal.

Just don't ask me to repeat the stories about the Pilgrims, at least as told to children from a "patriotic" view.


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The lack of quality teaching in your youth should bear no effect on your view of the holiday as a whole. And even if some of Thanksgiving's roots are unappealing, find one holiday that doesn't have such roots.

The key to enjoying the holidays is to try and understand what the purpose of them was for, before humans got their hands on them and messed them up, like we are great at doing.

Thanksgiving is not about the white man helping the Indians (as you have also pointed out this is just historically inaccurate). It's not even about getting together to eat food and watch football, though those are benefits. It's about a day set aside, where the corporate American train stops for at least 24 hours, and families gather in their homes to stop for a moment and say thanks to our Creator for all that we have been blessed with. Or, for the irreligious, to just be thankful.

Sure, there is misguided teachings about the holiday. And it is coated in irony how we Americans can't even wait 5 hours after the day we set aside to give thanks to trample over each other rushing into stores to add to our excess. But humans celebrating in the wrong way, or teaching in the wrong way, does not make the day worth celebrating any less.

-- Posted by cloverfan on Fri, Nov 20, 2009, at 8:36 AM


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Sunshine for the Soul
Rev. P.T. Wilson
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P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.
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