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What Is Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving reminds us to celebrate peace and unity across what are all too often seen as insurmountable differences.

Thanksgiving has become a bit of an awkward holiday, but contrary to my Twitter feed, it was never meant to celebrate oppression. It commemorates, after all, a meal shared peacefully between two different peoples – the English Pilgrims (who were seeking religious liberty), and indigenous Wampanoags (who had recently rescued these immigrants from starvation).

The “first Thanksgiving” story goes something like this. These people don’t have the same culture, homeland, or even language. They worship different gods. But one day, the Pilgrims decided to express their gratitude by inviting their gracious neighbors to dinner – a universal ritual known for the communal bonds it fosters and mutual trust it encourages. For a moment in history, there is diversity and peace.

We need that today. We need neighbors welcoming newcomers. We need meals shared by people who bow to different gods. We need smiles exchanged between speakers of different languages.

Here in the Bay Area, different corners of the world may be represented on my very street. Around the World in Eighty Days is accomplished by a trip to the grocery store.

In this context, Thanksgiving represents a certain patriotism – and it is more relevant today than ever. It encourages, after all, peace and unity across what are all too often seen as insurmountable differences.

And, of course, gratitude and good food.

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