One Way to Claim Free Society
…grand things on a minor scale.
— Stanislaw Witkiewicz
What good is empathy?
The problem with celebrating Thanksgiving is that it reinforces support of the most brutal aspects of our country and demonstrates how they continue to influence our society.
Annulling Thanksgiving to commemorate the Indigenous genocide would be a move toward liberating the suppressed history that’s keeping millions of people marginalized in their own country.
At minimum, annulling Thanksgiving would honor 2% of US population by bringing their ancestry into accurate historical context.
There’s evidence that trauma sufferers would benefit from such a change. The theorists behind CRT assert that the recognition of BIPOC involvement in United States history would be a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of everyone in the US.
This is something we can do with legislation. Why would we not do it?
Here are a few possible scenarios for solving the problem of Thanksgiving.
The government declares a National Day of Mourning to be observed in the first week of November. Citizens are encouraged to observe the day in commemoration of the country’s past, while Thanksgiving coming three weeks later remains unchanged.
With both days in place, the country could reflect on the five centuries of genocide committed on its land, or the replacement fiction that glorifies its past. Those who want to be as agreeable as possible can observe both days.
You can imagine how we’d spend November.
Another possibility is the United States publicly apologizes for the genocide committed against Indigenous people over the past five centuries and the ongoing instances of such violence today. This would be followed by the President declaring that a National Day of Mourning take its place.
As we advance from that, the last Thursday in November would no longer be centered around parades, football, and food. It would be observed during standard workday.
Imagine a response to the end of Thanksgiving.
Perhaps neither of these scenarios would go over well.
Both of them would require that we take a critical look at our country’s history.
Certainly, a federally observed national day of mourning would not go over well with a large portion of the population.
If it’s un-American to be against the suffering of other citizens, who wants to be American?
It would be un-American for the government to apologize for its past openly and graciously, instead of the way it did apologize in 2008 for the violence (p. 45 Sec. 8113) done to Indigenous people.
Consider the government’s role in our lives. They surveil us, they’ve facilitated the massive increase of the wealth of billionaires during the pandemic, the decrease of wealth among the working class — and expanded poverty during the same period of time.
Those opposing a national day of mourning have argued that they are not for anybody’s suffering — but instead stand for family, hard work, individualism, self-definition, small government, and achievement. That anybody living by these standards is free, equal, and American.
That it would be un-American to abolish Thanksgiving — or that it wouldn’t do any good to get rid of it because we are the descendants of ‘savage murderers’ and wouldn’t be here if it were not for our ancestors. This isn’t a sound claim.
There are a few things wrong with the anti-national day of mourning position.
1. Speculation has no power to heal people suffering from trauma.
2. We have an obligation to each other’s well being. Part of this obligation is fulfilled by assessing and correctly recognizing our ancestors’ roles in history.
3. Participating in Thanksgiving means advocating the genocide that incited its creation. The holiday is a reaffirmation of genocidal action, indentured servitude, white supremacy, historical ignorance, intolerance of other cultures, and blatant support of capitalism.
4. To celebrate Thanksgiving is to value tradition over the welfare of others.
5. Observing a national day of mourning would be a way to pay respect to the people who died in the Indigenous genocide, and our contemporaries related to them.
6. It’s a crucial erasure to heal from the past. This is better discussed in the words of Wampanoags.
We commemorate the victims of 911 with Patriot Day, and on the outside, September 11 passes like an average workday for most of the country.
Why don’t we also commemorate the millions of people murdered by colonists and nationalists for five centuries?
Instead of memorializing the victims of genocide, we celebrate their systematic murders.
Is tradition worth that?
Celebrating September 11 as a national holiday would be insane.
It would be celebrating terrorism, mass destruction of life, property, the nation’s ‘innocence’ — or perhaps such a date would be spun into a celebration of the men and women who cleaned up New York, DC, and nearby Shanksville Pennsylvania, and those who rehabilitated the survivors of physical and mental trauma in the wake of the attack.
Spending a day with one’s friends and family would be more popular than spending the day contemplating the systematic destruction of people who lived hundreds of years ago. Nobody wants to sit around and think of unpleasant things. We don’t want to feel bad about ourselves — and we shouldn’t.
The national day of mourning is about moving on from the horrible brutality of the past without forgetting it by honoring First Nation peoples.
The power potential a national day of mourning holds is in commemorating the true history of the United States.
If the government publicly recognized the victims of the Indigenous genocide, it would build up the integrity of the nation.
Showing respect for the dead and how they died would be planting seeds for a smart future.