Thanksgiving memory

While I don't celebrate Thanksgiving as a day of "love and peace between Pilgrims and Native Americans," images(slaughter of Native people, taking of their land by early Pilgrims, current discrimination of Native people, etc), I do celebrate the opportunity that 4-days off to see friends and family is given to us.  With many of my family members living all over the country, this is a day when we know that people will be around for a good 4 days or so. Thanksgiving is a special day for my family because we certainly have so much to be thankful for our in lives: cancer survival of so many in my family, births, reunions, etc. But, there was one Thanksgiving recently that irked me. As many do during this time, I had the opportunity to connect with a few peole who I hadn't seen in about 15 years. Long time. In this gathering of folks, looks have changed, boyfriends/girlfriends/marriages have changed, children have been added, new countries have been visited. And, as racially diverse as this group was (which is very rare for the town in which I was raised), we were also incredible diverse in our life experiences. Three of us were married. One of the group was recently divorced. Two of us had children. Three of us were homeowners. But, of our gathering, there was one in our group who had very different experiences: single, wealthy, jet-setter, no  commitments, no responsibility other than to herself.

I have always been very thankful for the way my life has turned out. During the time of this gathering, in fact, my daughter had just finished chemotherapy, I had just delivered my second child, and had been recently promoted at work. My favorite things to do then are still the same things I love to do now: spend time with my family, snuggling on the couch with my kids, and being in bed by 10pm so that I can do it all again the next day. Unlike this single acquaintance, I don't make a lot of money, but I love going to work every single day. I love my life. I have chosen this life. I wouldn't have done it any differently.

That was, until this single friend turned to me that night and said, "Wow. Our lives are so different."

"Yes, yes, they are," I replied. I really hadn't thought anything of it until she then followed it up with, martini

"I feel so bad for you," while nodding her head pitifully at me and then sipping her cosmopolitan martini.

WIth a desire not to make a scene, I basically just chalked it up to her inebriation and my annoyance. But, with the arrival of each Thanksgiving, I can't seem to shake her "pity" for me. I convince myself that it's actually she who is missing out being surrounded by unconditional love. I convince myself that having cared for a child with cancer has made my life more meaningful, more rich, and more thankful. I convince myself that I would much rather sit at home and watch "Entourage" than have it be my life. And, I believe all of it. Yet, each Thanksgiving, her face arrives back into my consciousness and her words, "I feel so bad for you" ring through my ears.

So, while there are so many things to be thankful for, it's hard not to wonder, "What If?". What if my child was never diagnosed with cancer? What if I didn't have to pray every night that she would wake up the next morning? What if I didn't have a house with an inflated mortgage, a job that I need to pay the bills, and a group of children who I had to tuck in at night? What if I didn't have to change diapers, worry about car seats, schedule my day around nap times, or work 50 hours a week for the same amount of money that this woman makes in a day? Would she feel less bad for me? Would i feel a yearning for a life of family, house, stability if I lived the single, jet setting, no commitment lifestyle?

I'm sure after a round of turkey and a few helpings of cranberry sauce, this woman's words will leave me - until next year. I feel like, in my case, the grass isn't greener on her side - at least not for me. I feel Blessed, thankful, and enriched for being able to give life, protect life, and create life; and, in return, my children, family, husband has given life to me.

THE SKY IS FALLING... THE SKY IS FALLING

By guest blogger, Jeff G.

 We all know the story of Chicken Little and how the moral of the story is to not always believe everything you hear.  For many of us, this can be quite difficult because we are taught from a very early age to take information at face value (i.e. – teachers, media, family members, etc.).  At the very least, most of us go from grades K-12 without questioning our sources of information.  For some of us, we reach a point in our lives where we learn that we have to dig a little deeper to find the truth.

 

For me, that point came very early in my college career…I remember that day so vividly because it was the day that forced me to strip away my foundation and anything I ever learned about “our” great country…America.

 

I was sitting at brunch with one of my fellow RAs and one of my friends from Afghanistan.  Wanting to know why we received the day off from classes, my friend asked me, “Why do Americans celebrate Christopher Columbus?” Everything that I learned in school rushed through my mind:

 

§  Columbus sailed the world to prove it was not flat.  So he hopped aboard the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria…He DISCOVERED America and everyone was happy.

§  Europeans fled mother land in order to escape religious persecution.  They decided to come to America.  When reaching a giant rock (Plymouth Rock…kind of like the back in the colonial day version of Ellis Island) they realized that the land was inhabited by “Indians.”

§  Europeans turned into Pilgrims

§  The Indians loved the Pilgrims and they had a nice dinner together…we call this Thanksgiving.

§   John Smith married Pocahontas…Disney made millions.

§  America went through a revolutionary war, signed the Declaration of Independence, and called America our own.

§  Colonial America continued to grow in the name of Manifest Destiny…

§  Native Americans lost their land, still had Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims, but now lived on reservations sanctioned by the Government.

 

Then it hit me…

 

Everything I had learned in school had been a bunch of bullshit lies or half truths.  I had been spoon fed American propaganda that all of my American brothers and sisters (Africans, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans) learned during their education.  America, according to several generations of white leadership, was a country built off people looking for a new beginning; people with hopes and dreams. 

 

The fact of the matter is that Columbus, during his “discovery” of America, enslaved the natives and killed them if they could not provide him with what he wanted…which was gold.  Europeans followed suit, leaving their country to escape from being oppressed and persecuted.  They came to America, killed off the natives, and claimed the land in name of Manifest Destiny.  America, the land of opportunity and freedom, was built off of oppression, greed, and bigotry…and according to our teachers…God wanted it this way. 

 

Hmmm…really?  So…God’s message is to spread hate and kill others in his/her name?  That is nonsense.  That would be like if George W. Bush used God as an excuse to invade Iraq (http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/1007-03.htm).

 

I hope you are catching on to my sarcasm because I’m laying it on pretty thick.

 

In all seriousness…

 

Our entire history consists of oppressing various groups in order to get ahead.  We have been conditioned as Americans to believe that it is our right to live our lives as the oppressors.  We are apathetic in our approach to create a society that strives for equality and unity of all races, sexes, and religions.  These are the seeds that were sewn by our founding fathers; seeds that have grown and been cultivated to represent “our” country and who we are, as Americans, today.

 

How are we supposed to educate our children about things like racism and hatred when we refuse to accept the fact that “our” country was built off of those exact values?  How do we overcome issues of systematic oppression when we fail to question the “truth” we have been given? 

 

No, the sky is not falling, but we do continue to set our future generations up for failure by providing them with the same apathy and social ignorance that has been instilled in us.  Now, more so than ever before, we need to shift directions and take action; not only to educate our youth, but also to pave the way for them. 

 

As the Native American proverb goes, “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.”  It is time to live by the words “our” country’s Natives spoke.  Let us retrace our steps and learn from our past so that we may create a new path for our future.