Thanksgiving, like most holidays, is based on an outright lie intended to gloss over an ugly history so we can all feel better about the way our ancestors handled themselves.
The holiday was officially created by Abraham Lincoln in the height of the Civil War to give Americans something nice, calm and comforting to hold onto - a fairy tale past that made the horrific present seem not quite so bad.
The Native Americans who lived here for millennia before Europeans colonized this continent had always celebrated during the fall - a celebration of the fact that they had saved up enough food to last them through the coming winter.
The real story of Thanksgiving is that when the Pilgrims arrived on the coast of Massachusetts, they arrived to a ghost settlement, with Native bodies laying out in the open, killed by the plagues brought earlier by European settlers - plagues to which the Natives had no immunity, plagues that wiped out a hundred million Natives, leaving the tiniest fraction to defend their homes.
The holocaust of Natives was so fortunate for the Europeans that King James of England (yes, that King James), called it “this wonderful plague,” and urged his subjects to thank God for killing millions of the continent’s inhabitants to clear the way for colonization.
The Pilgrims arrived completely ill-equipped to survive winter in the new land and nearly out of supplies from Europe, so on the first Thanksgiving, they stole as much food and pottery as they could from the natives who were still living in the area around the deserted village they inhabited. And then they offered praise to God for providing it to them.
That’s a pretty depressing picture.
But Abraham Lincoln was onto something. See, humanity has always been kind of messed up, with empowered jerks doing whatever they can to take advantage of needy victims. Nothing has changed, and though we are no longer embroiled in a war with ourselves, if all you do is look at the negative, America can be a pretty bleak place. On social media, there are plenty of people who will tell you how awful Muskogee is, how it’s riddled with crime, drugs and horrible people. Or they’ll complain about fracking, about the governor, about the state’s attempt to or failure to pass a certain law.
There is always something to complain about. There always will be. But, never forgetting that our nation’s beginning was nowhere near as lovey-dovey and bucolic as the dumbed-down history would like to present it, there is still a reality that you and I have the privilege of living in the most successful democratic republic in the history of the world, protected by the strongest military in history, supported by the richest economy in the history of the planet, to the point that even the poorest in America have the opportunity to be fed and housed - something only the wealthiest in other countries can afford.
Thanksgiving is a time to shed the stress and complaints that burden us every other day of the year, to forget about our workloads, to stop worrying about whether our candidate or cause won, to heal the rifts of this divisive year for at least one meal, to come together with family and friends and celebrate the things we have, the positive situations in which we find ourselves, the hope for a future better than the present.
The bitter, ugly reality of the present and the past on which it is built will always be there if you choose to embrace it after today. But you can also use Thanksgiving as a launching-off point to make the future more like today, and less like yesterday.
We at MuskogeeNOW.com are thankful for you; you are one of 45,000 people every day who make this site the overwhelming success it has become. We take your visits here very seriously, and we thank you.