America, Rediscover Thanksgiving's Radical Past
3 min read
"Gratitude" has become a vapid buzzword, but being grateful can be a revolutionary act. Just look to Lincoln and FDR.
What does Thanksgiving mean in a culture where we are constantly exhorted to be grateful all year long? In progressive circles—and even in some corporate boardrooms—we now often begin a meeting by giving thanks to Indigenous people, acknowledging that we are on "stolen lands." Thanks for what? Being conquered and defeated? Oprah, one of the richest women on earth, often admonishes the masses to "practice" gratitude every day, seemingly asking us to acquiesce in our own conquered and defeated state. The injunction to be grateful can feel reactionary, like a dismissal of our legitimate collective complaints, or a license for complacency.

Thanksgiving has historically not been immune from these political problems. Sarah Josepha Hale, in campaigning for Thanksgiving as a national holiday, wrote in 1835, "There is a deep moral influence in these periodical…
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