I woke up today realizing that this will be our first Thanksgiving as newly minted United States permanent residents. So, I spent the morning pondering and researching the actual history and meaning behind Thanksgiving in the United States and I realized that even though I am about to embark on a very daunting yet exciting journey as a new immigrant in a new country with a new culture – I have a lot to be thankful for. It took two years of waiting very patiently in a very long queue with what seemed impossible obstacles at every turn to eventually have the privilege of holding a green card in my hands.
Despite the fact that there are many people in the United States and further afield who have welcomed us, congratulated us, helped us and even envied us – there are just as many people - and most of them hail from the United States and other Western countries, - who are appalled that we even wanted to emigrate to the United States of America in the first place. This same homogenous dichotomy of people who have been pledging all over social media that there is ‘nothing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving’ whilst hissing and braying about the current political situation in the United States. Their initial premise of forsaking the traditions of Thanksgiving here in the United States is supposedly set upon the historical injustices of the first Thanksgiving meal. I cannot comment thoroughly on this as I do not know the history to its full extent, although I have a good idea.
However, it does appear that Thanksgiving did not seem to be a huge problem in generations past but has only now become a political battling cage to foster an agenda of discourse and thinly veiled hate for anything that resembles traditions of the west and America.
So, akin to spoilt little children throwing themselves on the floor when they do not get their way, certain sections of the American population have expressed their discontent and displeasure and without shame it seems – truly and unabashedly are not thankful for what they have and where they come from.
So, let’s put this in perspective.
I hail from Africa. I am privileged enough to have had a great childhood, a good education and great family and friends all around me. So, I am truly thankful for that. I did however, live right next to millions of people across the African continent who have Nothing. Only wasted promises and false hope for a better day. Africa, a continent of corruption and poverty on a massive scale - the likes that many people in America have never ever experienced. I ask you – those that choose not to be thankful this Thanksgiving due to your political agendas and social justices causes – please, please come to Africa, or in fact any part of the third world which accounts for billions of poor and impoverished people and sell them your diatribe cocktail of political discourse. I want you to explain to these people why you are not grateful for living in a country like America. Sit these people down and explain how you hate your president and your government, you hate your traditions, you hate Christianity, you hate Thanksgiving, you hate, you hate…. Let’s see if they agree with you whilst they clutch their starving children and look longingly at your overfilled pocket of western treats and food.
I say to you – to the people of America who awake today and scorn at the traditions of Thanksgiving, who aimlessly bleat how you are not thankful this Thanksgiving – have you any idea how obscenely privileged you are that you get to be in a free society where you can actually complain and do so with impunity? How privileged you are that your worst problems in life are the number of characters you can type in Twitter to get your social justice messages across to your followers? How privileged you are that you can complain about the traditions of America and your pollical unhappiness whilst you stuff your faces full of burgers?
Your forefathers fought in many wars and went through extraordinary challenges so that you can sit in the comfort of your safe homes, with food in your belly, a booming economy, a roof over your head and most of all to have the ‘privilege’ of complaining about your traditions and stomp your feet when you don’t agree with something or someone.
Having lived in Africa most of my life and had to endure some of the most corrupt and awful governments, I say to you – those that choose not to be thankful today – You have a condition that we call a ‘First World Privilege’ This is the privilege to complain about your life whilst you have every opportunity afforded to you and every opportunity to vote in a democratic election. In Africa you can vote all you want, complain all you want, shout to the world – it will amount to nothing and people will still be poor and starving, without jobs and without any opportunities to make their life better. I dare you – go to Africa, Yemen or any third world developing society, go and live there amongst the people, and maybe just maybe you will actually have an idea as to the truly extraordinary extent of your own privilege to live in a country like America. Maybe then – you might appreciate your First World Privilege, and instead of trying to tear down your own traditions and values that make your country so fantastic, you might actually start to cherish and truly appreciate how fortunate you really are to be part of a country like America.
America, a country that people like me and tens of millions of other people around the world who would give anything to have the chance to be part of. So, today as I read up on the history and traditions of Thanksgiving, and also the flurry of social media angst regarding this holiday – I for one am thankful. Not the lip service kind of thankful, where one feels that you have to utter the words aloud to get recognition. But really thankful.
Today – instead of harping on about the historical injustices of Thanksgiving, why don’t you take it for what it really is? Family and Friends coming together on Thanksgiving and being thankful for what you have. Be thankful for your opportunities, be thankful you have food today, be thankful for your family now and generations past I can tell you now that today as you feast, there are millions of people around the world who are thankful for any tiny morsel of food, who are thankful if they get a piece of clothing with holes in it, who are thankful that the real political villains of the world won’t be invading their homes today.
I for one am thankful. I am thankful that I have the unique privilege to come and be part of an incredible society like America.