The Light andThe Dark

The Light andThe Dark

The dark and the light. Thanksgiving is a day of dissonance. While many of us step away from the busyness of life to share a thankful meal with loved ones, there are others that know the truth of the day and mourn. 

Normally,, I try to focus on the things in life that grow, and that make the world a more joyful and beautiful place.  But joy and beauty must align with truth, and there is a beauty in sharing truth, since the world can become a better place because of it.

Like most Americans, I come from a mixed ancestry.  Almost two thirds of my great grandparents were born in different.  If you go back one more generation, there are only two branches of the family left that have been in the United States for any length of time. 

One of these lines encompasses a good bit of the history of New England, beginning in the early 1600’s.  While I am not aware of any Mayflower ancestors, mine weren’t far behind.  Some of those ancestors were founders of towns, governors, sea captains, preachers, and well-known military figures; many which have been honored with accolades for their deeds and accomplishments. (There are even statues of some of them.)  These people saw themselves as a “city of a hill”, a shining example of Puritan perfectionism.

It is this that is often celebrated on Thanksgiving.

I was one of the children that was dressed up at school with paper outfits to celebrate the “Pilgrims” and the “Indians” sharing a happy meal together.  History taught to children to perpetuate the myth.

The truth is a harder sell.  A story of the Europeans showing off their force with gunfire, and the indigenous people showing up to find what the problem was.  The feast was shared with suspicion, not thanksgiving.

The even darker truth is that these people on the hill, the ones that statues were carved for, were also the same people that stole the land from the First Nations people.  They were the ones that massacred whole villages of indigenous people: men, women and children.

I come from these people.  

I also come from the indigenous people here in America; the Seneca from what is now New York.  I also come from the Kalinago (Carib) people, and from the people of West Africa, who were likely brought by the sea captains engaging in the triangle trade who filled New England’s insatiable thirst for rum through the sale and labor of the enslaved people from Africa brought to the Caribbean.

I come from these people, too.

The predominate culture I grew up in, though, is that of the first group.  Yet both of these are my heritage.  The dissonance vibrates within my very cells, and still I carry on the values and often thoughtlessness of my own actions as a privileged white person.

I have a choice to ignore the difficult pieces of this, or I can feel the discomfort and try to educate myself, and be willing to hear when I am operating out of the predominate culture. I can have empathy with those whose history has been ignored, and stand with them on these difficult days. These are the small things that I can do, that we can do, to take this darkness and change it to light, one little revelation at a time.

So today, at your family gatherings, embrace those you love, remember those that you miss desperately, be thankful for all the good and the lovely that you have, bring light in to the world by bearing the truth, and remember those that are grieving.