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Image by Tanya Dawn

Mr. President,

I love Thanksgiving. I love everything about it. It is the ultimate American holiday: eat, be with family, watch football, nap, repeat. Most of all, though, I love the entire premise, that we spend an entire day reflecting and being grateful. Think about the power of that. We dedicate a holiday to the premise that we must be thankful for what we have. Almost every Letter2Trump this week has focused on the idea of thanks. Why? Because it’s a powerful, life-changing notion.

Just pausing and reflecting is powerful enough, but expressing gratitude also will help you remember that life is bigger than any one of us alone. Reflecting and being thankful will help you have major realizations about yourself, your life, our world.

It’s obvious that you’re sad, and your lack of reflection is a large reason why. No man is an island. No man has ever built anything truly by himself. What’s the first thing any of us built? A tower of blocks? Someone gave us the blocks. A sandcastle? Millennia of natural processes brought us that sand. Everything we have is due to someone or something else, and it is important to say thanks for that.

Giving thanks is a way to take account of just how lucky you are to be where you are and have what you have. Even the most downtrodden among us has something to be thankful for, even if only life itself. I can only imagine that experiencing gratitude must be a daily requirement for those who have everything they could ask for, especially when they never had to earn it. I can see how not expressing gratitude when surrounded by obscene wealth could destroy you.

This is true on a national scale, too. When I called Thanksgiving the ultimate American holiday, I meant it in every way. The United States wouldn’t be where it is or what it is without having stolen land, lives, and cultures that were here before Europeans decided to claim them as their own. Thanksgiving represents the U.S.’s inability to achieve its dreams of equality and greatness without first reckoning with its past.

Where does such a herculean task begin? With pausing, reflecting, and expressing gratitude. I cannot rectify inhumanities of the past, but I can acknowledge them. I can express apologies and gratitude to those who were hurt. I can acknowledge that I wouldn’t be where I am today without history’s twists and turns, both the good ones and the evil ones.

I, for one, ate my delicious turkey and mashed potatoes on land previously settled by the Anishinaabe. We cannot achieve future equality without acknowledging past inequalities. It is complicated, but we can also be thankful for what we have while also understanding that terrible acts may have allowed us to be where we are. There is no true way forward without reflecting on that. I didn’t commit the crimes against humanity myself*, but if I am to love my fellow people, I must consider the impact of those crimes.

Mr. Trump, you live in a house built by enslaved Americans on land that was first settled by the Piscataway. The least you can do is be thankful.



*Sorry, I know you can’t necessarily say the same yourself. I meant no offense in that regard. I didn’t come here today to condemn your acts of hatred against your fellow man; rather, I came here today to encourage you to reckon with that yourself.

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