We crowded in front of the stage gripping our cameras with sweaty palms. They tottered out, girls in white bonnets, boys crowned with Indian headdresses and we wrung our hands mouthing along with them the words we knew by heart.
In their chirping voices they sang of the first Thanksgiving, of the Indians and Pilgrims gathered as friends around the table. They finished with a bow, cheers erupted and cameras flashed. We applauded but at the same time our hearts sank. We wanted this to be the end of the story or at least an honest indication of its trajectory. We wanted to spare them the truth, that all the opportunity they possessed had been stolen from someone else.
And then we came home to this video, filmed at a meeting of White Nationalists in Washington D.C. (yes those are Nazi salutes) filled with statements like,
“America was until this past generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity.”
No amount of wishing will make this or any evil act untrue. Our children must know of the Trail of Tears, the Slave Trade, Jim Crow Laws and the shooting at Charleston.They must understand that in America, freedom has only existed for those in power and that bravery is what is required of those who live on the margins.
And yet it is Thanksgiving and we have been waiting for it all year. We want to eat turkey with our families and to watch the Macy’s Day Parade and to play football and eat pie.
We want to celebrate the idea of Thanksgiving even if it is mostly myth. We long to hear the story of a people who needed help and received it, of a table of hospitality spread before them, of two races and languages sitting down together and sharing a meal.
I hope that Thanksgiving is more than a piece of cultural propaganda.
My prayer is that this would be a prophetic feast. Just at Israel celebrated the Passover for a millennia before its meaning was more fully revealed though the sacrifice of Christ, I hope that Thanksgiving is painting us a picture of what is yet to come. Today we celebrate our heritage but we feast in the hope of reconciliation. We anticipate the day that our children will sing songs of truth, proclaiming justice and freedom and liberty for all.