The Ethics of Thanksgiving

Max Bowman, Writer

Growing up as a kid, you’ve probably grown up listening to adults stretch the truth for you. Them lying about how  the Tooth Fairy left you a quarter for you tooth isn’t gonna hurt you, however there is a certain line that I and many others feel that’s been crossed.  That line, is Thanksgiving.

By now, most people know what actually went down during Thanksgiving. While yes, there was a celebratory meal between pilgrims and Native Americans, it was almost immediately followed by what could only be called a genocide. Our ancestors pillaged many Native tribes, gave them disease ridden clothes and blankets in a ploy to force them off their land, and exhausted many of their sacred areas’ resources. Yet for some reason, we are taught as younger children that Thanksgiving was the peaceful celebration between pilgrims and Native American. This is not OK. I understand that no one wants to tell their child how cruel the world can be, yet telling them lies on the very sensitive matter that is Native American oppression does more harm than good. This is similar to another recent example of controversy with Native American imagery –  the renaming of the Washington Redskins and many high school football teams. I, too, would want my child to retain his or her childhood innocence for as long as possible –  yet I’m not going to fill his head with lies that will skew his or her perception of the real world, making them grow up into a childlike fantasy. It’s the equivalent of celebrating a heartwarming dinner between the Nazis and Jews, right before they’re sent to the showers. Ask yourself, is it OK to let one good moment whitewash an entire saga of pain?

I’m not saying get to rid of Thanksgiving. No – that would be preposterous, and the holiday itself brings many joys to American households. Celebrating Thanksgiving is fun,  when it’s centered on a joyous feast between family and friends, bringing back together people who haven’t seen each other since long ago. It’s the celebration of the genocide part that should be abolished. People would argue that it’s an integral part of the holiday and that we should stick to tradition, yet those are both poor counterpoints. One is that as you grow up, the pilgrims and Native American aspect drifts further and further away from the tradition, to the point where as an adult, I doubt you’ll even mention the original feast the holiday is based off of. Two, tradition is fine until it prevents progress. In this case, progress is getting rid of a genocidal aspect of a nationwide holiday. I honestly can’t comprehend why people would choose tradition over getting rid of that!

At the end of the day, you wouldn’t be sacrificing a national holiday. You would still be able to celebrate with friends and family and turkey would still be served as a main course. It’s just the genocidal aspect wouldnt be played as a fun little events that ignore the tragic history that accompanies the tradition. Thanksgiving is a wondrous holiday that brings together people who may have not talked in years. Let’s just get rid of that blemish.