Thanksgiving may not be what it used to be because in truth it may actually be better.

I say that because living in this moment of American history means we are those Americans who know the truth about what our ancestors did to the native Americans who first helped the Pilgrims of Plymouth, Massachusetts survive their first few years in this new land.

The best historians agree that what the early white Europeans who settled our country did to native Americans fits the category of genocide. Before white settlers arrived, there were between 9 and 18 million native Americans living here. At the end of the 19th century there were approximately 250,000. 

Our ancestors were responsible for the virtual elimination of the people who were here before they were. That is a fact, unless you are among the small minority who deny, facts, ignore reliable evidence, and/or erase the truth about what happened. 

But such denial doesn’t help us celebrate Thanksgiving Day, or make it easier to be grateful for the blessings we have inherited from our ancestors. If anything, it makes it more difficult.

There is no joy to be found in a celebration built on a denial of the past or a sentimental view of it as if we can make it something it never was. 

That kind of Thanskgiving Day is hollow, meaningless, pointless.

Instead, a genuine Thanksgiving celebration does not hide from the bad parts of our history in order to be thankful for the good. It acknowledges the good and the bad because we know that the tension between the two exists in us as well.

Celebrating Thanksgiving with pure hearts is possible for Americans who stand over against denial of real history or fear of it, both of which can hold us hostage to illusions, even delusions, that never lead to anything good.

I’ve never understood people who believe telling the truth is a bad thing and pretending things are better than they actually are is a good thing.

Both strike me as expression of weakness, of timid-ness, of a failure of nerve that makes it impossible to make your way in the real world.

America is a great nation without being a perfect one. Americans are a good people without having to be better than people in other lands. 

We can give thanks for the life we have together, and for the sacrifices of everyone who dared to build this nation, defended it, cherished it as home, and would expect nothing less from us.

What is more, Thanksgiving means more to me this year than usual, primarily because I believe we survived a threat to our nation no modern generation has ever faced before.

We stood up to domestic tyranny, violence, and insurrection, showing that when pushed to the limit we are “willing to fight for the right, without question or pause, to march into hell for a heavenly cause.”

Words of a dreamer, of course, but then nothing great is ever accomplished without a great dream that doesn’t depend on a denial of truth or exaggerated goodness.

I have never been more proud, then, to be an American, and simply say to all of you as one proud and honest American to another, Happy Thanksgiving!