Wednesday, 21 April 2021

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Immigrants Celebrate Thanksgiving Too! But Auntie Najwa has Something to Say about that...naturally!

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Hello Dearies:

This year has been really something, and now it’s time to give thanks. Thanksgiving – the giving of thanks to our creator - is really not confined to a day. Rather, it is a way of life for us, always being grateful for what is provided, Alhamdullilah. In the United States it is a big holiday, and over the years, I have grown quite fond of it, too. I love the colors (how else would you know it’s fall in Florida) and you don’t have to tell me twice to gather with family and friends. By the way, it’s not true that my advice is ‘unsolicited’ – my family does want my input. They just don’t realize that they do. And this year, I’m advising everyone to think of your elderly or vulnerable relatives and plan to celebrate with everyone next year. Given the fact that the Centers for Disease Control considers family gatherings a very high-risk activity, my advice is to skip the festivities this year and keep them just within your household. Yet, here’s a little tidbit about the holiday, that might help:

Of course, it’s good to be grateful – for everything. People who are grateful live better and more prosperous lives filled with humility and peace. And it’s quite proper to be thankful for things that are uncomfortable and have taught us the lessons of life – the sometimes painful past that made us who we are. And part of being truly thankful means dealing responsibly with the past to heal the present and go forward into the future.

Having said that, the old Thanksgiving narrative that we teach to children and immigrants does none of these things. American scholars have discovered that the pilgrims’ relationship with the Native Americans wasn’t quite as it is depicted. Apparently, the pilgrims gave thanks for the wonderful arable land that they thought God had provided them after native American tribes were decimated by the diseases they brought. Manifest destiny. The pilgrims were the chosen ones – the Native Americans just collateral damage on the way to paradise – oh joy. If that doesn’t make the turkey stick in your throat, I don’t know what will. And maybe that is what they honestly believed at that time, but it’s really hard to tell today’s children to celebrate such blatant hypocrisy clothed in religion. Hence, our textbooks teach them about the lovely meal the pilgrims shared with their dear friends and how these silly friends traded away their livelihoods for a few beads.

This pandemic, alhamdulillah, has given me time to read more about this part of the American past. For all who want to delve into this subject without having to earn a PhD in American history, I recommend the book Lies My Teachers Told Me by James W. Loewen; it’s quite a read. The book’s subtitle Everything your American History Textbook Got Wrong gives those that write textbooks the benefit of the doubt that they were just mistaken, but the textbook industry is so politically driven that this is hard to believe. The new narrative of the heavily financed textbook industry is that Muslims are to be blamed for the slave trade. These teachings are just getting traction, so please stay tuned for that.

Lying (or omitting) seems to be a big part of the curriculum in schools that prefer not to talk about difficult subjects and present a ‘dumbed down’ view of America because it suits the needs of the conservative white people who are paid handsomely to sit on textbook adoption boards. Why raise kids critical of our great nation? Let’s paint them unpatriotic and scapegoat them and the ‘other’ to promote American exceptionalism or policies. In public schools, we pledge allegiance to the flag, so the flag has to be un-besmirched, flawless and so are all the just and true actions that were ever done by any American anywhere.

But of course, Americans are humans and creatures of their time, so of course, they have done bad things, and plenty of them. Things that they knew were ‘bad’ when they did them … as well as things that are ‘bad’ by today’s standards. The responsible way to deal with bad actors in history is to tell the truth and to learn from the mistakes of the past. Lying to our children about that is not in their best interest and also not in the best interest of the country if it ever wants to have a chance to heal and learn. We’ve come a long way, baby … but maybe not as far as we thought. Because of this culture of ignorance and denial, Americans are doing bad things right now, and those who expose this are marginalized or – worse – are spending their lives in exile. America, frequently holds herself and her friends above the law, morality and decency, and that – again – is not something she wants her children to know.

Sadly, these lies are not about preserving our children’s innocence. Lying to children in history class is not the same as childhood make-believe. It isn’t harmless. It skews their view of the world around them. It takes the human factor out of analysis and seeks an outside enemy that is at fault in everything that goes wrong. Because it sure can’t be us - or rather: the U.S. It also raises children who are suspicious of everything because they know they are being lied to. Kids are not stupid. They know when they’re being sold a bill of goods. Unfortunately, if they don’t have the tools to find the truth, they become susceptible to another kind of pandemic – irresponsible conspiracy theories. Q-Anon may just be the natural result of the American education system and its failure to teach American history and social studies. And all you have to do is follow the money that funds this systemic ignorance apparatus to find out who benefits.

Take the current pandemic. When China raised the alarm of the plague that had affected their population, our leadership privately acknowledged its severity, warned industry of the economic fallout but told the population that it was all a hoax and that the other side wanted to enslave them by compelling them to wear masks. Instead of tackling the problem and rallying the American public to stand together and fight with proven methods, those who are dealing with the death and devastation were accused of mislabeling the deaths for their own profit. I personally think that any doctor worth his/her salt would never do such a thing – but people who are raised to be suspicious of the educated elites and for whom going to the doctor is a luxury, probably do not.

Once the presence of the virus could no longer be denied, the purported country of origin was blamed. Silly names and outright lies took the place of accepting responsibility for one’s own failure of leadership. Why take responsibility when headlines of attacks against Asian-Americans distract people from feckless leadership? To date, particularly in the State of Florida, we have no leadership in addressing this public health crisis. Instead, the governor just hired a sports blogger turned Uber-driver and known conspiracy theorist to analyze COVID-19 statistics (!). We’re now on the second wave of the virus – and if I do have my baseball lingo correct, the third strike would take us out. The new hire, whom we are handsomely paying for his services, admits he’s not an expert. He says he doesn’t need to be. “Experts don’t have all the answers.” Propagandists evidently do.

In truth, even if our leadership leaves much to be desired, we have so much to be thankful for in Florida. A fairly robust health care system with dedicated professionals. Weather that invites outdoor gatherings. And we’re left to our own devices without any word of caution from our so-called leadership. People are actually planning family get-togethers in enclosed spaces – termed by the experts as the highest risk activity. Ironically, given what I have learned about the pilgrims’ true motivation for gratitude, spreading a deadly disease to vulnerable people without immunity seems to be rather appropriate.

I for one, am celebrating with only my immediate household this year because I want to be thankful for my extended family’s love and companionship next year.

 

Stay safe Dearies,

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