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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Ode to (actually) giving thanks

I will preface my ode to Thanksgiving with a disclaimer: The call to thanks has become somewhat of a cliché that I aim to dispel. The naiveté of thanks-giving and the shallow consumerism we now enjoy has clouded the essence of the holiday. Let us strike at the heart of what brought us to our selfish engorgements and remember how fortunate we are. Before continuing to sound like a parental figure on a soapbox, let’s talk history.

It was a dark and stormy November day when the Pilgrims landed on Cape Cod. Their ship, the Mayflower, was dirty, cramped and filled with families who had just spent more than two months on a ship barely 100 feet long. Morale was lower than low, leadership was questioned, the season was late and the winter was bearing down on a group of people woefully underprepared for what was ahead of them.

This is not the same story that you dressed up for with paper turkey heads in first grade. This is not the same story glazed over in select U.S. history books; this was a story of extreme hardship, starvation and cooperation. The latter is owed to the Native Americans, without whom the pilgrims would not have survived.

Our main thanks, then, is irrevocably indebted to the Native Americans, who in return were subjected to hundreds of years of mistreatment. Let us be clear: The history of European-Native American relations in North America is despicable, a discourse on displacement and the removal of peoples and lands. Unfortunately, much of this is forgotten, including our celebrated hero Christopher Columbus killing and enslaving hoards of natives during his famous “”discovery”” of America.

With all historical injustices aside, we have more to be thankful for than ever before today. We can be thankful that we live in a society that, although not perfect, is progressively moving toward eliminating prejudice and inequalities across the board. We can be thankful that if anyone tried to enslave Native Americans or African Americans in this day and age, they would be thrown in jail, and thankful to fellow columnist Mallory Hawkins for getting me in the mood to be thankful.

The point to be made is that our storybook version of the first Thanksgiving was celebrated under the direst of circumstances and by a community extremely thankful just for a good meal. Hundreds of years later when we sit down in our temperature-controlled houses with food that has traveled thousands of miles to come together onto our plates, remember we should all be so fortunate. Not only do we not have to live like the pilgrims, but we have the ability to even have a Thanksgiving, which is certainly not a guarantee for all Americans.

The chances that we would have lasted more than two hours in the conditions that the pilgrims and natives fought through are negligible. The amount of luxury afforded to us today is incomprehensibly greater than anything that could have been imagined at the first Thanksgiving. So this holiday season, take a moment to reflect on what we have, what we have been given and where we are going. Be thankful for those who came before us and thankful for the opportunity to be thankful; we should all be so fortunate.  

— Brett Haupt is a journalism junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

 

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