Last week was Thanksgiving. The lore of the holiday is that the native Americas and the recent immigrants sat down to share a meal. It was done when the harvest was completed and the food was stored away for a long winter. It is not for this post to explore the issues of the day. But, it is to examine how our own myths about the holiday have more meaning than the reality. Here are two groups of people that should have more to fight about than to share, sitting down peacefully at the dinner table – the quintessential symbolism of mutual trust and brotherhood.
To those invited, the only requirement to sit at the table
was not to harm anyone. They brought
their own religious views, their own cultural mores and dressed as each did in
their own homes. At the table, there may
have been passionate discussion about each side’s point of view, as is common
at many Thanksgiving feast throughout the land.
But, in the end, everyone was able to be themselves.
The myth the symbolism portrays is that it should be part of
the human experience to sit with our antagonist to share and talk. By sharing a common human experience we can
then begin to understand how many things beyond dinner we have in common. We all have families, loved ones and dreams
of a better life. Of working with the
world and creating a paradise for all to prosper.
That myth doesn’t always get expressed in the real
world. In our communities we have
competing forces that work against each other.
This rivalry is not based on the things we have in common, but on our
differences. While we pretend to provide
an open and free community, the restrictions that the patriarchal majority place
on the minority are based on the differences between the two. The restrictions should, instead, be based on
the one requirement that the first Thanksgiving had, to not do harm.
The myth of Thanksgiving suggests that we shouldn’t care
about the religion, political beliefs, gender, race, marriage or anything other
differences of those that are sitting at the table. What matters is that we invite all to break
bread, to use a religiously loaded term.
Thanksgiving is a time when we should reflect on our achievements,
even if they are only partial achieved.
One of our greatest achievements is the myth that all in the community
can come together at the same table and share the bounty. Existentialism tells us that while the
Thanksgiving myth is only partially achieved in our community, to keep striving
is the purpose.
With reflection on
the true meaning of the Thanksgiving myth, we can come as close to the fully
actuated myth as possible.