I’ve already heard it. Christmas music. Halloween is over and the advertising and media juggernaut has turned to Christmas.
What happened to Thanksgiving? I know the holiday doesn’t include presents or candy and revolves around a bird that literally puts us to sleep, but it’s a worthwhile holiday we shouldn’t forget.
The story is familiar – the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth, England, and crossed Massachusetts Bay in a cold and blustery October, 1620. Out of 102 passengers, only half lived through the winter to spring.
In their first few days on land during the spring of 1621 an Abenaki Indian greeted them in English. He introduced them to Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe. Despite his past experience as a kidnapped slave to white people, Squanto took pity on the impoverished and starved pilgrims. He taught them how to plant corn, extract maple sap, catch fish and generally stay alive on the foreign soil. He helped them associate with a native tribe. In return, and in celebration of being alive, the pilgrims hosted a 3-day festival of friendship – the first Thanksgiving dinner. There were no pies.
Meals of thanksgiving became a staple of American living. In 1789 George Washington issued the first national Thanksgiving proclamation to celebrate the revolution and ratification of the Constitution. In 1863, during the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day a national holiday to “heal the wounds of the nation.”
At least that’s what the history books say. But many histories whitewash the two hundred years during which the colonials expanded their control and domination of the American landscape. There is little mention during Thanksgiving history recitations of the mass genocide that occurred on this continent, intentional and unintentional, once white men landed. It’s an important aspect to remember as we ponder Thanksgiving. Perhaps we can focus our social media “Days of Gratitude” postings more on what we want to be thankful for, rather than what we are thankful for – a vision of who we want to be, rather than who we are.
I hope to be thankful for a world where every seat is filled when Joan Trumpauer Mulholland speaks. This past weekend the NAACP Salt Lake Branch held its 99th Annual Life Membership and Freedom Fund Banquet. Mulholland was the keynote speaker. If you don’t know who Mulholland is, you’ve probably seen her picture. She is the young woman sitting at the ice cream counter in the iconic picture of the Jackson Woolworth’s sit-in during the civil rights movement. She is a Freedom Rider and a civil rights legend. She participated in more than 50 sit-ins and demonstrations by the time she was 23 years old. She told the audience to find a common cause with people and work together. She was inspiring and witty and fascinating.
She is a civic warrior and a national treasure, and there were open seats in that downtown ballroom on Friday night.
I hope to be thankful for a world where a late-night drive to the emergency room doesn’t include a cost/benefit analysis when so much is at stake. That’s where I found myself this week after my son woke up coughing and wheezing, trying in vain to take a breath through his croup. I don’t have the magic answers on how to fix our health care system. But I do know that what we’re doing isn’t working.
I think we can find many of those solutions in new models being developed around preventive care medicine that focus on individuals’ whole-health before illness sets in. Many chronic conditions are preventable. The University of Utah’s College of Health is trumpeting these developments. It claims, “about 75 percent of medical care expenses can be prevented through positive lifestyle changes.” Clayton M. Christensen, author of the idea of disruptive innovation, has also concluded that a “whole-person approach” is the future of affordable medicine.
Finally, I hope to be thankful for a world where we aren’t celebrating the first female president, or the first female mayor, or the first female anything. Better Days 2020 is a non-profit corporation working to popularize Utah women’s history. 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the first woman voting in Utah as well as the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Yes, women in Utah could vote 50 years before the nation thought it should be a right. But we’ve lost much of that enlightenment in assumptions about how women want to, or should, be spending their time and talents.
To accomplish its goals, Better Days is developing an education and training curriculum, a historic walking tour of downtown Salt Lake City, pictures and posters of key Utah women’s rights leaders, a public education campaign and other related projects that celebrate female leadership in Utah.
I don't think the early colonials expected to decimate a race. We need to take off our rose-colored glasses and compare who we are with who we want to be.
I’m thankful for the chance to do that.
Michelle Quist Mumford is an editorial writer for the Salt Lake Tribune who also hopes to be thankful for a world where the Dodgers win the World Series.