My friend, Vyckie Garrison posted a very sweet article on Raw Story about how atheists celebrate Thanksgiving. She asked several prominent atheists to participate, and I meant to. I don’t know what happened. I thought I sent the message, but I’m not seeing it now. Pity. I really wanted to be a part of that. So let me just post it here.
Obviously a lot of us know that we were lied to about Columbus and about the pilgrims and all of that. We certainly don’t hold the Puritan’s slaughter of the Pequots in our minds when we do Thanksgiving, knowing the horrible truth of that story. Nor do we pretend to credit any imaginary magicians for their part in arranging the fates —as if that were even possible.
But a lot of us realize we do have a lot to be happy about, and that we should take stock in that. For that reason, Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday, believe it or not. It’s a matter of perspective. When I was a boy, I heard people say “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”. I thought that was stupid. Better to appreciate and take stock in all you’ve got going good in your life. You’ll enjoy it more now, and then if you ever lose it, there are no regrets. It helps to establish some perspective between how things are for you than they are for a lot of other people. I never envied folks who had it better than me. I’ve always counted myself lucky that things aren’t as bad for me as they are for that other person over there. I’ve always had a positive outlook like that. And I want to encourage that in my kids too.
So rather than complaining about how bad things might get, I’d rather remember how bad they once were, and be glad they’re not like that anymore. My kids don’t work in sweatshops like in the early days of this country. My kids have smart phones and health care. Modern medical science is now able to diagnose things properly and can even cure a lot of stuff -where they couldn’t for like the whole history of humanity until, you know, my life time. I used to think it would be fun to go back in time and live in the middle ages, or the 1800s, or the 1960s. Now I know better. I’d miss the internet and all the discoveries since then that I couldn’t talk about at that time. We’ve made advances every decade, so that there are no “good ol’ days”. This is as good as things have ever been.
That’s not just true on the societal level; that’s true for me personally too. Although I have always been poor, (and I still am) most of the time, I’ve been able to say that things are better this Thanksgiving than they were last year, and I didn’t have too much to complain about last year either. That’s a pretty good record I think. I may have no one to thank for my “blessings” —except myself of course, and my family, beloved friends, and patrons, and so on. Oh and everyone else down through the ages who sought to make the world a better place for future generations. Yes, thank YOU!