Alaska State Sen. Löki Tobin (D-Anchorage) sent a Thanksgiving message to her supporters that blasted the holiday for triggering historical trauma and perpetuating a “romanticized myth” about America.
“This upcoming federal holiday brings with it many complex feelings,” Tobin wrote in a Nov. 23 email. “It is also a day that perpetuates a romanticized myth that I know many educators spend a few precious classroom hours unpacking.”
Tobin’s email bemoans the fact that she did not learn the “accurate and true story of the ‘first Thanksgiving’ until she was in her 20s. She directed her supporters to utilized online resources that draw into question the friendly nature of the first Thanksgiving, while framing English settlers as “enslavers.”
Tobin’s email also includes a meme encouraging people to utilize the day to “clear their generational trauma.”
Despite her misgivings about Thanksgiving, Tobin does plan to enjoy the holiday in “radical rest” as she feasts on turkey with friends and family in order to “recharge, recenter and realign” in order to serve more “authentically” as a state senator.
Tobin’s criticisms of Thanksgiving are indicative of many left-leaning Americans who see Thanksgiving as rooted in oppression. This outlook, however, tends to marginalize or ignore the fact that many of the Pilgrims braved the harsh storms of the North Atlantic and perished well before the first Thanksgiving feast. Others struggled for bare survival, and endured harsh conditions while serving as indentured servants in hopes of achieving a better life.
These realities were the backdrop of the first Thanksgiving, which has always been inextricably tied to religion.
In 1789, President George Washington set aside Thanksgiving as “a day for public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.”
Then in 1863, amid the ravages and destruction of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation inviting “fellow citizens in every part of the United States, …to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving.”
By 1941, Thanksgiving was declared to be a federal holiday to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.
The significance of the holiday was famously articulated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, when his Thanksgiving day proclamation affirmed that America has a “duty to set aside a special day of thanksgiving and praise to the Almighty because of the blessings we have received.”
Roosevelt noted that, “Never before in our history or in the history of any other nation has a people enjoyed more abounding material prosperity than is ours; a prosperity so great that it should arouse in us no spirit of reckless pride, and least of all a spirit of heedless disregard of our responsibilities; but rather a sober sense of our many blessings, and a resolute purpose, under Providence, not to forfeit them by any action of our own.”
He ended his message by warning Americans against the impulse to view material well-being as the true source of national greatness and happiness.
ALASKA WATCHMAN DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX
“Upon our material well-being must be built a superstructure of individual and national life lived in accordance with the laws of the highest morality, or else our prosperity itself will in the long run turn out a curse instead of a blessing,” he said. “Accordingly, I hereby set apart Thursday, the twenty-ninth day of November, next, as a day of thanksgiving and supplication, on which the people shall meet in their homes or their churches, devoutly to acknowledge all that has been given them, and to pray that they may in addition receive the power to use these gifts aright.”
Writing for the National Review, Adam Carrington argued that Thanksgiving needn’t amount to “cherry-picking specific, praiseworthy events from our past.”
“Indeed, the history of America includes real instances of injustice on matters concerning race, gender, religion, and class,” he wrote. “Thus, gratitude — properly understood — is not rigidly attached to the status quo; it welcomes reform. Such reform, however, should be less focused with uprooting and upheaval and more oriented around amelioration and refinement — to purify our gold of its dross. For Americans, it has involved a better realization of our principles, not ridding ourselves of them.”