Well, it’s that time of year when Americans go crazy getting ready for the holidays beginning with Thanksgiving. Some things will never change. There’s Turkey and all the fixings. The grandma recipes come out, and families come from far and wide to reunite over a full table. Even with an ongoing pandemic, families are saying fuck it just so they can celebrate the holiday. Maybe, even using the opportunity to give thanks for all they have. It is a nostalgic touch.
This is also the time of the year when the origins of Thanksgiving are revisited. We all know the old familiar traditional version: The Pilgrims and the Native people joined together to celebrate a harvest. They broke bread together, and they all lived happily ever after. Americans love their myths. They would prefer not to be told the unvarnished truth about American history, so they cling to fictional stories to make themselves feel better. That’s why all these revisionist efforts to ban Critical Race Theory (like they even know what it is). I mean, we don’t want to make little white kids feel guilty, and little black kids feel superior. But I digress.
No less than the Smithsonian Magazine has a version of the beginnings of the holiday. In “The Myths of the Thanksgiving Story and the Lasting Damage They Imbue,” David Silverman, a history professor at George Washington University, claimed that much of what we believe of the first Thanksgiving is a myth full of historical inexactitudes, uh, I mean lies. According to Silverman, the truth begins with the pilgrims landing at Plymouth in 1620. Seems the local native Chief, Ousamequin, proposed to the new neighbors an alliance, “primarily as a way to protect the Wampanoags against their rivals, the Narragansetts.” Silverman describes how that alliance weathered an onslaught of “colonial land expansion, the spread of disease, and the exploitation of resources on Wampanoag land.” You know, like that old adage about offering peace with one hand and picking your pocket with the other. For the modern-day Wampanoags, Thanksgiving has a whole different meaning, “a day of deep mourning, rather than a moment of giving thanks.” But I digress again.
The past twenty-two months have been, to put it mildly, a shitstorm of panic, depression, isolation, despairing of those who believe this is a hoax, fear for our families and friends who have had to put up with that stuff, and just wishing it would all finally go away and scared it might never. At least, I’m thankful I’m alive. I’m fully vaccinated with a booster. My family is protected and well. We have not been crushed by overwhelming sickness and deaths around us, although a few of my friends have fallen ill, and some have passed. I’m thankful that most have recovered and gotten vaccinated because they never want to go through that ever again. Their words should be engraved on every wall and street, “This ain’t something to mess with.” But I digress.
I’m doing well in my first semester at California State University, Long Beach and I’m thankful. The vaccination mandates and mask protocols are old hats for many of us, with two of my classes in person and the other online. I am thankful that I am continually challenged to be a more incisive student and writer. There are the two original short stories I am writing, my academic essay on Code-Switching as the Language of Identity and Resistance, an upcoming creative essay assignment on Memory as MyStory, the class on English literature where I get to do all kinds of literary analysis, and the study of literary theories and linguistics. Next semester, it will be all about Creative nonfiction and ethnic literature and short stories (I love writing them). I have learned so much from the professors and my fellow students, some of whom are young enough to be my grandchildren. But they’re not. They are grown-ass adults who think quickly and incisively on their feet, understand technology in ways that challenge me (and I think I’m pretty good with it), and who have these incredible dreams about their future that makes me wish for more years to live mine (no, I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. I’m just sayin’). But I digress again.
For years since the apocalypse began with Donald Trump, I’ve been saying that the craziness was just beginning. Like an epidemic, the diseases of hate and the wish to return to another time that never existed would infect every corner of this nation. It is difficult to not worry over the direction of this country. I mean, we are divided like no other time since the American Civil War. The Vietnam era has nothing on today. Every day, we struggle to deal with inflation, high prices for everything under the sun, job losses and switching jobs, those of us trying to resume normally when we’re not sure we know what normal is anymore, and hoping that whatever is normal is right around the corner. At least I’m alive, some would say. But I digress.
There was a day back when I was a drunk and drug addict, I would have seen these days as an excuse to get more drunk and take more drugs. Here’s what ten years of sobriety have taught me. All that shit happening outside of you is just that, occurring outside of you. It only comes into you if you allow it to be inside of you. You have some crazy idea that you really need to feel bad because it’s the only way to live. Who thinks like that? Oh yeah, drunks and drug addicts.
I am no longer that person, so I will not allow that shit inside of my mind and body. I will instead welcome peace to be inside of me. My family and good friends are all I need to live in that peace. That’s what I am thankful for. The paths we choose to walk are our decision if we would just tell ourselves that mindful peace is our destination. We may still be walking toward it and have not reached it yet, but that’s okay. I’m thankful for learning that I have that option and all the other self-destructive stuff is disposable. I have the power to live a peaceful life, and for that I am thankful.