The tone of the holidays in October and November has changed a lot since childhood for me. I suspect that you have felt the change, both enlightening and uncomfortable twists as well. I am of course referring to the increasing concern about Native Peoples and the subsequent necessary change in the way we collectively think about Columbus Day and Thanksgiving. White people who have descended from European ancestors are presently in a challenging moment. America is reconciling the kind of moral pain only new awareness can create.
The emergence of Indigenous People’s Day in connection to, and in a way in place of, Columbus Day, and the challenge to the myths of benign cooperation between native peoples and the first Europeans in Massachusetts have largely turned fall on its head. This is the kind of challenge to who we once thought we were that we UU’s specialize in. I don’t want this short newsletter article to be just one more hand wringing act of being “Woke.” I really don’t. However, the truth is, in a way that was never so undeniable, that is where we must be. Collectively, we know now unequivocally how truly bad some of the behavior the people most of us white people can and should think of as our ancestors really were. To be fair, our history is hardly one of complete shame. The arrival of white Europeans on this continent, and the creation of “America” was both the start of and part of an amazing new unfolding of ideas about who humans were and could be. Our UU ancestors were dead center in that transformation. It is also true that collectively the white European ancestors that many of us can claim the legacy of behaved abhorrently… period. If you are paying attention it is likely hard for anyone even remotely enlightened about the abuse Native peoples have experienced think about Thanksgiving and Columbus Day without at least a little feeling of shame. All that said, I think that a path to healing is available.Wouldn’t it be great if we could all begin to start agreeing that all of human history, all of it, is filled with humans doing the unthinkable to on another, and that generally, but not always, the worst acts are done by those holding the most power and privilege? Usually, the aggressors, the more powerful, and the more ambitious in any moment start it, and to me obviously bear most of the obvious blame. What if we came to a shared understanding that much of that happened because up until about now we did not know that… we all shared the same DNA,
we, the Europeans at least, didn’t know then that we would threaten a finite planet,
we didn’t know then the vastness of history, and the diversity of all of life,
we didn’t know then that despite different hair and color, nearly all of what really differentiates any human from another is our varied cultures and experiences, not some innately different constitution,
we did not know that we all share the same potential, and
we certainly didn’t know that from a God’s eye view, we share the same FATE!
What if we all came to agree that in the past we appeared much more innately different to each other? What if we came to collectively accept the truth that although homo-sapiens started as more of a singular group from Africa, as we emerged and traveled, we cultivated different myths, more illusions, and in general had just enough separation from one another, to see each other as other? What if we at my imaginary collective family reunion of homo-sapiens, realized that while most of us collectively left the family and had our adventures, all that contributed to creating flamboyant acts of “othering” one another? Essentially, what if we came to understand that when we “othered” one another, we were providing a precursor to the oppression and war that has defined our species history? Generally, family reunions take place in the northern hemisphere in the summer when the travel is the easiest. However, what if we came to see fall, prompted by Columbus Day and Thanksgiving as a way to look at our history of what happens when we falsely, although understandably thought of ourselves as being separate as a species. What if October and November was an annual moment to celebrate the new awareness that for a while, we simply failed to recognize that we were really simply long-lost family. Let’s try that idea on for size. ~ Rev. Steve