By Neil Gundavda
Like many holidays, Thanksgiving is both contrived and hypocritical.
From birth, American children are bombarded with cartoonish scenes of seamless integration of the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans in 1621. The bountiful harvest did not result in 400 years of peaceful and charitable relations between white settlers and indigenous Americans, but the tall tale is forever etched into national lore.
Our children form the key cog in this propaganda machine, creating thanksgiving-themed artwork, making useless papier-mâché cornucopias, and wearing awkward Turkey costumes. The mythology is buttressed at the dining table, where the ideals of graciousness and self-effacement are replaced by rapaciousness unparalleled in human history.
Once the gluttony is over, Americans will arise at ungodly hours and stand in line for a tradition that trumps the excess of the night before: “Black Friday.” In a spectacle reminiscent of a religious pilgrimage, shopping zealots will kick down the doors of Wal-Marts and Targets—stampeding, pillaging, and even killing—for a discounted Xbox bundled with the latest version of Call of Duty.
However, we can find some things that truly are worth celebrating. Americans have a lot to be thankful for this election cycle. Perhaps Thanksgiving does remind us about the diversity inherent in America and the fact that this country was always a shared country (despite attempts at making the contrary true for most of this country’s history).
We should be thankful for this past election. The people’s house is supposed to capture the passions of America – the diversity of its opinions and of its people. Two weeks ago, we saw the election of the first Hindu to Congress in Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, and the first openly bisexual member to Congress in Krysten Sinema of Arizona. Sinema also will assume the role of the lone atheist in Congress.
We saw the election of the first Buddhist Senator in Mazie Hirono from Hawaii, who is also the first Asian-American woman to serve in the Senate. There will be 20 female senators in the 113th Congress, the most in U.S. history.
The people of Maine, Maryland, and Washington voted in favor of gay marriage for their states, while Minnesotans voted against a proposed ban. As it stands now, nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. Colorado and Washington rode the progressive wave even further by decriminalizing marijuana.
Prosecutors in the state of Washington dented the armor of the mighty prison industrial complex when they dropped 225 pending possession cases in response to the passed referendum.
This is the Thanksgiving ideal that we teach our children: that inclusivity and understanding are the most important goals in our society. The narrative of the Pilgrims and Indians sharing the fall harvest of 1621 does not represent any sort of true cross-cultural exchange, but it reminds us that the United States is a patchwork society with a shared – yet uncommon – history.
Though this election was not a landslide in favor of this ideal, we have inched closer to this goal. We have ostracized politicians who believe in antediluvian social mores, silenced those who subscribe to economic policies as effective as leeching, and sacked those who preach that a woman can prevent an unwanted pregnancy due to rape.
This Thanksgiving, we can indeed be thankful for the right decisions Americans made in November.