Thanksgiving and Adoption
Thanksgiving is upon us yet again. And with Thanksgiving I try to remind myself what we are celebrating. Are we celebrating the beginnings of this country? Or is it possible that what we are celebrating is also tragically and incomprehensibly the death of another civilization? Both seem to be present day understandings of what has become an American holiday of “thanks.” We give thanks for a nation that is founded on reprehensible acts of greed and justified by European ethnocentric colonialism.
TV and radio programs always keep up with the seasons. I see daily reminders of thanksgiving in commercials for food, and “heart-warming” acts of “good will.” But what of the tragedy that the Native Americans suffered at the beginnings of this country? What about the routine extermination of an entire nation? How about the Trojan Horse that Jeffery Amherst brought to the Native Americans, of blankets infested with smallpox?
And yet today, even as school systems try to right the wrong by including these dark histories in textbooks, children and families are still let out of school for a holiday that they have learned is based on politics, colonialism and ultimately genocide. We celebrate the beginnings of this country but we celebrate at the expense of every Native American who was killed as a result of the much celebrated Christopher Columbus and all he represented as more Europeans settled colonized this land.
It makes me sad to think that so much of American history is based on political posturing. Whether its false pretenses for war, justifying the incarceration of Japanese Americans, the dehumanization, violation and enslavement of Blacks, or even the baseless claims that undocumented immigrants steal jobs. So many of our most heinous crimes against humanity are intentionally manufactured with fear, and carried out with “justified vengeance.”
We celebrate thanksgiving almost in the same way we celebrate adoption. Thanksgiving and the much dreaded “gotcha day” celebrate new beginnings. Whether it’s the start of a new country or the start of a new family. They are days we are supposed to be thankful for. But what of the struggles, pain, sorrow and much too often corruption that has led to the destruction of a family and subsequent relinquishment? How about those birth parents whose rights have been trampled for the sake of profit? I think of the day that I was adopted and all I can think of is the face of my mother as a young woman (I finally see her face now) and the heart-wrenching conclusion she came to. I think of the countless days of terror she faced at the thought of my departure, and at the paralyzing fear that she was not safe in the walls of her own home with the partner she thought she loved. I am heartbroken.
So as I feast this Thursday I will not forget what was lost at the founding of this country. I won’t forget that the celebration of my arrival celebrated the departure from my birth mother. And I will NEVER forget the pain and fear my mother must have felt leading up to the days of my adoption. -GS