As a Mexican-American child growing up in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas I remember celebrating the American holiday, Thanksgiving, as a day which seeked to convey a utopian image of the founding of America between native peoples and foreign immigrants. This remembrance has come under controversy with the emergence of a bitter feud between advocates that it should be a day of shame of European conquest and defenders who note it was and is a symbol of the ideal of what America is striving to be. That although not yet perfect America has made considerable progress to that promised by its inception.
Just before Thanksgiving a year ago I was a part of Mekelle University medical faculty teaching medical students, providing healthcare, and promoting research to improve the lives of Tigrayans as well as their fellow Ethiopians. Unfortunately today I find myself displaced by a horrible war that has killed, starved, deprived, and rendered hopeless tens of thousands of people in Ethiopia. Everyday of the war reminds me they have not yet reached the state of progress we have struggled for in America. We versus they thinking has poisoned their society. They need to be exterminated mentality has ruined a country.
I am currently reading Thaddeus William’s Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice which has helped me to come to terms with how I view Thanksgiving.
First we have to recognize that all men are created by God in his image. All of us are potential sinners and potentially repentant members of the human family. Neither the native American society nor the Europeans were without sin yet they judged each other as “they” not “we”. Today this lack of seeing others like ourselves deteriorates into volatility and then violence. This has been sin of man since history has been recorded.
As a Mexican-American we honor our native and European roots. They are our mother and father. To hate one and love the other only recognizes half of our whole. The American expansion to the southwestern continental region of North American engulfed our traditional lands which beforehand had been taken from our native ancestors by Europeans.
Today we are a part of a great country, the United States of America, to which we have contributed much including building its infrastructure, harvesting its food, blending into and adding to its culture, as well as defending its liberty from foreign threats. We cannot change history but we can learn from it. Our identity now is we are an essential part of the American dream and it is an integral part of our culture. Today I can celebrate Thanksgiving because although there was a flawed past there is a future with promise. I thank God for his creation of us all.