Pat Blythe – Thank You and Giving Thanks

What are you thankful for….today and every day? Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness…..? I know, rather American (which, by the way, we all are since almost 400 million of us reside on the continent of North America). This past weekend thousands of Canadians, surrounded by friends and family, gathered around tables heaped with food to give thanks for the bounty placed before them. Thousands of others gathered in shelters, outreach centres, missions, food kitchens, church basements or not at all, having nowhere to go or maybe no way to get there. Thousands more supped on dinner for one or no dinner at all. We are so caught up in the preparations we tend to forget anyone outside our normal sphere of day-to-day relationships. So stop and think, for just one moment…..who could you have included in your Thanksgiving celebration? Next year….right?

I am both fortunate and very blessed to have a wonderful, loving family and for the past few years I have cooked and hosted Thanksgiving dinner for my extended family of friends. This year I celebrated Chris’s favourite holiday alone….by choice….reflecting on our 34 years together and thankful for all the memories and teachings he has left me. It’s been five years and this year’s Thanksgiving was my closure. Positive, optimistic, sad, uplifting and now content.

The Thanksgiving Song – Adam Sandler

Ooooo….I just love a little history lesson…..

Thanksgiving as we know it began as a strictly American (read U.S.) occasion in the 17th century. We’ve all been taught, on both sides of the border, all about the Indians and the pilgrims sitting down together, breaking bread in friendship and in celebration of a bountiful harvest. The darker side of this holiday is never mentioned around the table and is rarely discussed away from it. Much of Thanksgiving’s shadier history is unknown (or buried) to most. However, “giving thanks” began to mean many things in the U.S., predominantly the colonist’s many “victories” over the “heathen savages”. Not exactly dinner table talk with the wee ones.

When the colonists landed at Plymouth in 1620 they did indeed receive assistance from the local Wampanoag Indian tribe although it was, by far, more take than give. Europeans had already settled parts of the east coast prior to that historic landing. and had managed to literally wipe out many Indian villages by introducing smallpox. They also kidnapped many sold them into slavery. So the “Plymouth Pilgrims” were not the first and as the saying goes, nor would they be the last. Landing in the New World, totally  unprepared to fend for themselves in an untamed, unsettled land, these desperate folk decided to unearth native graves seeking cooking pots and utensils. Many natives were enslaved and forced to teach the colonists planting and survival techniques. Welcome neighbour (she says dripping with sarcasm).

When the first Thanksgiving harvest dinner was held in 1621, the chief of the Wampanoag, Massasoit, was invited. He promptly invited 90 of his men (I like his style) which I’m sure more than surprised the colonists. Another story has the natives inviting the colonists to share in their bounty. Whichever it was, it is this Thanksgiving feast that was first depicted in a 1914 painting by artist Jennie Brownscombe and made famous by Life Magazine. A portrayal shared around the world as the definitive Thanksgiving scenario and one we like to believe in. So just like the Coca Cola Santa that became the iconic image of the jolly old elf, we have a sublime portrait painted almost 300 years later of two vastly different people and cultures sharing a meal together as a form of thanks and friendship. We have perpetuated someone else’s visions of what Christmas and Thanksgiving are all about.

Indian Nation – Paul Revere & The Raiders

However the cold, stark reality is this….the years following that banquet of friendship included the rape, plunder, massacre…. in short, the genocide of an entire people. The shear brutality is unfathomable…..wiping out village after village, young and old alike kept as slaves, sold, killed or starved, eventually forcing thousands onto the reservations, defaming and marginalizing an entire nation of people. The interlopers hijacked pieces of their culture and teachings, literally stealing their land, leaving their original hosts and teachers a shell of their former selves. During the process of their attempts to wipe out the natives, many of these “victories” culminated in a celebration of thanks for almost 200 years!

Abraham Lincoln finally put a stop to all these celebrations of thanks. Realizing the civil war had torn the country apart, he designated a single day, the last Thursday of November “as a day of thanksgiving and praise” to promote unity. This was changed by President Roosevelt in 1941 to be the fourth Thursday of November.

“1970 was the “350th” anniversary of Thanksgiving, and became the first proclaimed national day of mourning for American Indians.” — rense.com

Thanksgiving is a perfect time to reflect and remember what has gone before, to recognize the long road travelled and how much further we need to go, to heal, to be inclusive and share with those who have stumbled or fallen, to appreciate and especially to celebrate this incredible gift we call life. The day of apple pies, all thing pumpkin spice, roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy comes from darkness but the altruistic me believes we can all work together and learn from each other to truly make Thanksgiving what it’s supposed to be about…….everyone! …..oh yes, and the food.

What am I thankful for? All the glorious colours of life….and that pretty much covers everything.

Cheers!

….and for shits and giggles (if you get this far)

Uptown Funk Mashup

Life is A Highway – Tom Cochrane

References

The New York Times, rense.com, The Atlantic

=PB=

Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

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