Dispossessed Peoples’ Day

Today, in the U.S., it’s Thanksgiving.

Though I’ve been celebrating it every year, I’m not this year.

I have finally reached a place in my life where I am comfortable saying, “No. I cannot celebrate the conquest of a land by people who had no right to it, and the destruction of the people who already lived and thrived there.”

The traditional story goes something like this: Pilgrims came over to North America, and were welcomed by friendly Indigenous Peoples, who taught them how to live off of the land and survive the winters. They celebrated by sharing a meal together.

Aww, isn’t that sweet? Too bad it’s 100% bullshit.

Though all the stories surrounding Thanksgiving are debated, it’s more likely that this feast celebrated one of two things: 1. the harvest (which, fine, sure, whatever) or 2. the massacre of over 700 Pequot people (I’m sorry, what?).

But the truth of that story does not change the fact that the colonists did dispossess waves upon waves of Indigenous Peoples, and most of us can locate ourselves on one side or the other–conqueror or conquered. I, personally, as a white person (though my particular heritage is asynchronous with the colonization of North America) bear some of the guilt for the ways in which I’ve benefited from this dispossession.

And I am not grateful for that. I do not celebrate my privilege. I do not celebrate others’ lack thereof.

“Okay, yes, the origins of this holiday are shady, but can’t you use it to be grateful for the good things in your life?”

No. For the same reason I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. I don’t only love my husband one day out of the year, so I don’t need a pointless holiday to commemorate that. I don’t need a holiday to be grateful–I’m learning to live a life of gratitude. If that’s all this holiday is about now, then I see no reason to celebrate it.

So, today, I’m mourning. I’m angry. I’m disheartened. I am hopeful that one day, things might be different. Maybe I’ll be able to teach my children about the terrible history that is the bedrock of the U.S., yet be able to say, “But it’s different now.” Maybe someday justice will happen and equality will be the norm. But since we’ve been screwing things up for over 500 years, I’m not counting the seconds.

Mama G. and the Immanent Music

I used to walk down to the Gottliebs’ house every day after school. They were retired farmers, sold off most of their land years ago, but kept a few acres. Farmers don’t ever really retire. Their kids had long since moved away, but everyone still called them Mama and Papa G. They were, in a way, the parental figures of our little town. Papa G was always out in the fields, and didn’t have much to say beyond the current state of the wheat, but his presence was warm. Mama G sat on the porch and protected the neighborhood with her watchful, loving eye.

 

Mama G would tell us stories. It didn’t matter about what; she always captivated us. There was so much wisdom in her words.

“Listen, dear. Listen to the world around you. Listen to the stories being told.

“There is music in everything.”

She took me on a journey. The rustling of the shafts of wheat, the squabbling of geese on the lake, the evaporation of the tea she always seemed to have ready. The howls of the wind and the blooming of flowers. The icy warmth of fresh drifts of snow and the piercing way in which the sun got under our skin. The itchy shifting of farmhouse floorboards. The softness in her arms as she picked me up when I fell. The sweet, waxy smell of fresh-picked vegetables.

“Listen, child! There are stories being told all around you! Listen to the rhythm beating out from the core of the Earth, as all of creation joins in the song! Can you hear it?

“There is music in everything.”