Tuesday’s Thoughts: Gratitude, Remembrance, and Grief

This is a complicated week this year. Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance (always 11/20) and Thursday is Thanksgiving in the US (always 3rd Thursday). So I am going off-script for today in order to bring up a couple of these themes.

Thanksgiving is complicated. My generation was taught that it was a time that the Pilgrims came over in a caravan big boat and were starving. Those who belong to this land originally, welcomed the undocumented immigrant pilgrims and shared their food and how they grew food. It culminated in one big Thanksgiving dinner where all sat at the table and shared their food. Why is this complicated? Sherman Alexie, Spokane/Coeur d'Alene, says:

"It [Thanksgiving] is a holiday that commemorates the beginning of the end for us, the death of a culture."

Jacqueline Keeler, Dakota:  "I see, in the First Thanksgiving story, a hidden Pilgrim heart. The story of that heart is the real tale than needs to be told. What did it hold? Bigotry, hatred, greed, self-righteousness? We have seen the evil that it caused in the 350 years since. Genocide, environmental devastation, poverty, world wars, racism."

This is hard stuff. How do I, as a dominant culture, white, Western European person, tell the story of Thanksgiving? Hold the joy I will have to sit with my family while simultaneously understanding the meaning that it holds for many different nations-Lakota, Dakota, Blackfeet, Salish, Oneida, so many nations made invisible by the white hand of manifest destiny. What I will do on Thanksgiving:

  • Honor that the land I sit on originally was occupied by the Salish
  • I made a donation this week to support the Nakoda Youth Council, making reparations
  • I made a donation to "Real Rent Duwamish"
  • I'm sharing this with you
  • I will sit in gratitude for the friends and family that I hold dear

Please don't take this list as perfection or as virtue signalling, but as a list of concrete examples of what can be done. I'm sure there are many other things that can be done. I bet you can think of something and share it here!

There is no reason that everything has to be puppies and kittens. We can hold together the puppies and kittens and their relatives, the lion and the wolf. We can hold the complexity of gratitude along with acknowledging that harm was done.

This relates, for me, to Transgender Day of Remembrance. On this day, today, we remember those who have been killed who are transgender--369 transgender people were killed from 10/1/2017 to 9/30/2018. That is a worldwide number.  And it is a number that is rising for the third year in a row. These are my people. I identify as gender-non-conforming and my youngest is transgender/non-binary. When I sit still and contemplate the dangers of being transgender, it makes my whole body sink. And the continued efforts by the US government to criminalize transgender people is terrifying. On a daily basis. Not all names are even known and acknowledged by their governments. They are considered less than people. Undeserving.  And the intersection with racism and patriarchy - i.e. white supremacy - is strong with trans women of color being the highest rate of murders of all categories.

I am grateful for my community and I am terrified. Puppies and kittens, lions and wolves.

My prayer for you and all you hold dear is that you can find space to be grateful all the while acknowledging the harm that has been done. And find a way to move through it with grace.

In closing, I share with you a video, "People of the Salish Sea (Coast Salish) from the film Clearwater"

Leave a Reply