It’s December; holiday celebration back in the United States of America has come into full swing. Red and green mixed with twinkling lights mask all avenues of major cities, shopping centers, and suburban homes. Figures representing Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, among other holiday traditions, are spread across the nation. Yet I am in New Zealand, still wrapping my head around the first Thanksgiving to give me a true comprehension of its significance.
What a strange experience. The first time you celebrate a tradition that’s truly “American” outside of the United States. Invited by two American guys, residents of New Zealand for the past 30 years, who’ve started their own Thanksgiving celebration just three years ago.
My boyfriend met James while working on a building project in Hanmer Springs.
James originated from San Francisco travelling the world a few times over; a culinary genius speaking several languages. Now in his late 60’s he’s left much of his consciousness back in the 70’s, an old, wise soul leading a mostly nomadic existence, living only on absolute necessity.
Burt is a friend of James’. Initially from Duluth Minnesota; Midwest country boy who fell in love with a kiwi girl, transplanted into the mountains of New Zealand thus setting roots. His three children consider themselves half kiwi and half American. Joining us is the youngest Isaac and his wife Robyn. We’re welcomed into their home with a captivating presence of genuine kindness.
Wait. Half American? What a strange concept for my ears.
It was of great appreciation that we attend this year’s Thanksgiving. As the smell of fresh basted Turkey danced through the air Burt explained how his older two children have spent many vacations travelling around the United States, his daughter even living there on exchange. As years went by and family ties started to dwindle less time was spent in the red, white, and blue bringing about the start of the family’s own Kiwi Thanksgiving.
“I want Isaac to know his heritage as an American,” Burt explained. “Tell him about the traditions back home, how it began. What you learn in school. You know, I haven’t had a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving in over 30 years!”
“His American heritage”.
Words my conscious mind continues to dwindle on. After explaining the pilgrim’s first harvest with the Native Americans. After explaining my own family traditions. After answering a series of questions about American heritage, and how delicious pumpkin pie is I realized, I’ve never truly stopped to recognize this heritage as my own.
Anyone born and raised in the United States knows how we view our heritage: half this, a quarter that from a great-great grandmother you’ve never met. When is it time we stop this initial thought process? In the grand scheme, unless you’re one hundred percent Native American, we are all immigrants. Is it time we all start looking at ourselves as one nation instead of a whole of individual parts? I’m not insinuating to cease celebrating our ancestry, because that is indeed the beauty of American tradition, but when can we look at ourselves as a people? As just Americans, whose country was founded on the belief that your current circumstance does not determine your future outcome?
Continuing to dwindle on the past will consequentially cause us to make the same mistakes.
Racism, skepticism, sexism, fraud, and corruption.
Money and power over humanity and social justice.
Wasn’t America founded for the people, by the people?
This Thanksgiving got me thinking, when did we lose righteousness? There is no question that in our current state we are no longer the greatest country in the world. The question is when did we fall from grace? How long before Trump? Before Clinton and Monica? Before Bush and the War on Terror? Hell maybe even before Watergate? Everyone will give you a different answer but my point is, let’s learn from the past but not let it encompass us. Without the past there is no future. In contrast instead of focusing on the wrongful doings why not focus on how to apply new models to our future.
To truly understand America, one cannot rely on one outlet, one person, or one general consensus. We are a plethora of colors, languages, beliefs and traditions. We are a multitude, a melting pot and that my friends is something to be damn proud of.
We are not perfect, but with a prolonged path to follow we are all in this together. In the end we are Americans and that is something to be thankful for.