Why I’m Thankful & Why We Should Acknowledge the Other Side of Thanksgiving

Why I'm Thankful and Why We Should Acknowledge the Other Side of Thanksgiving

No matter which side of the American election you were on this November, you’ll have to agree that where America stands on the world stage is a bit uncertain right now. My country has decided to put someone in power who has no previous diplomatic or political experience. We have decided to choose a leader that wants to close America’s borders, and increase the ethnocentric mindset that already exists in this country.

This has caused alarm for a lot of American travelers and expats. I’m unsure if visa regulations will change for the worse in the next few years. I’m dreading how much anti-American sentiment I’ll get from other foreign travelers for simply being from a country who elected someone like Trump. I’ve already received backlash from other travelers in the last couple of weeks and I didn’t even vote for the guy.

With that said, I still believe there are quite a few things to be thankful for as an American traveler this Thanksgiving. Although I’ll be thousands of miles away from the warmth of my family, I’ll be appreciating the good aspects about my current situation and nationality from afar.

I believe Thanksgiving is also a time to remember the past and the struggles and prejudice that Native Americans continue to endure in America on a daily basis.

I want to talk about the positives of Thanksgiving – i.e. what I’m thankful for as an American abroad – but also what I’m no so proud of as an American when it comes to this holiday. For those of you who don’t know the real backstory of Thanksgiving and what’s currently happening in North Dakota with the pipeline, I hope you read until the end. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Why I'm Thankful and Why We Should Acknowledge the Other Side of Thanksgiving

Why I’m Thankful to be an American Traveler

My passport makes travel accessible and convenient (although not for work visas)

Although work visas for Americans are few and far between, mainly because of how crappy our work visa process is for foreigners, there’s no doubt that having an American passport is a golden ticket to the world. An American passport allows you to go pretty much anywhere, even North Korea these days, although I don’t recommend it. For most countries you’re traveling to, you won’t be hassled at the border like you would for other nationalities.

Furthermore, I don’t need to apply for a visa in a lot of countries because I have an American passport. Most of the places I’m planning on visiting this year and next don’t require a visitor’s visa if you have an American passport, including Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, just to name a few.

The American dollar is one of the stronger currencies in the world

Although American politicians tend to paint a bleak picture of the economy, the American economy is actually doing quite well these days. It’s not growing as fast as it could, but it’s a hell of a lot better than it was in 2008.

Furthermore, even though it’s not the strongest currency in the world, the American dollar  is one of the most widely accepted currencies in the world. Countries like Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia sometimes prefer or only accept American money as opposed to their local currencies. When I was in Cambodia last, they wouldn’t even accept British Pounds, regardless of the fact that they’re worth more – my British travel mate tried.

Technology has come a lot further from the last time I was living abroad.

This isn’t only an American thing of course, but I am very thankful for the advancements of technology, even just from a few years ago when I lived abroad . Maybe I just know about more communication apps these days, but it seems like they work better and there are so many more choices than there were in 2013.

I talk to my family and friends every week now, as opposed to once a month on weak Skype connections. I’m thankful that I’m able to call my family on Thanksgiving even if I can’t be there in person.

I can help change the preconceived notions most people have about my nationality

I’ve mentioned this before with being an American abroad, but I try to be my best self while I’m abroad. A lot of foreigners have a skewed view of Americans that is based off the American government or the over-the-top media and celebrity-focused culture. Many people think of Americans as ignorant, loud, dorky, and disrespectful. I may not be able to help with the dorky part, but I try my best to educate myself and do my part to represent America well.

Simply by being abroad and meeting more foreigners, I’m (hoping) to reduce the prejudice and the idea of Americans fitting into this one small box. I’m thankful that I’m educating other people about my culture, and the positive aspects of my country as well.

Why I'm Thankful and Why We Should Acknowledge the Other Side of Thanksgiving

I’m opening my mind and expanding my knowledge of the world

Similar to trying to spread positivity abroad as an American, I also think every American who travels brings a more open minded and knowledable perspective of the world home with them.

With how closed-in American culture already is, and the lack of understanding that exists about the outside world, I’m thankful that I’m an American who travels. I’m thankful to get out of the “American bubble” to try and share the positivity that exists in this world with my fellow Americans. And to try and show other Americans why they shouldn’t be so fearful of the unknown.

I’m a native English speaker and my freelance business is based in America

Being that I’m a native English speaker from a country that is known for its quality schools (at least at the college level), I have a lot of options as a freelancer in the writing and social media field. I know that I’m highly privileged because of where I’m from and the education I received. Native English goes a long way when it comes to writing jobs or simply producing  quality and grammatically correct content for social media or newsletters.

Being that my business is based in America, I’m also paid in American dollars, which as I said above is one of the better currencies to have abroad.

I’m trying my best to be proud of who I am 

I’ve struggled a lot with my identity as an American in past years. I feel like I don’t always fit into the traditional American mindset, but I’m still proud of where I’m from. It’s the worst feeling in the world to be ashamed to be who you are.

I haven’t always felt that positive though. I’ve gone through moments, most recently after the 2016 presidential election, where I didn’t want people to know where I’m from. I would simply not speak up if I was in a group and someone asked us where we were from.

I still struggle with this, but I’m learning to be the best that I can as an American, and how to be more grateful to just be me. I can’t help where I was born or how I was raised, and if people are going to judge me for where I come from, so be it. I can try to improve myself based on what I know is lacking in my culture, but I’m never going to be anything other than American and I’m thankful for that.

I can stand up with my other Americans in protest 

And lastly, being that freedom of speech is still a thing in my country, I am thankful that I can post an article acknowledging the darker side of Thanksgiving, and the protests that are currently happening in North Dakota with 240 Native American tribes. Let’s be honest, most of us that aren’t in Native American communities don’t appreciate or even acknowledge the other side of Thanksgiving. It’s not talked about nor discussed.

Native American grievances are not brought to the public eye as often as they should be, or really at all. And I think on Thanksgiving of all days, taking a moment to acknowledge Native American communities should be one of the main aspects of the holiday. After all, it is a tragic day for Native Americans across the country.

Why I'm Thankful and Why We Should Acknowledge the Other Side of Thanksgiving

Acknowledging the Other Side of Thanksgiving

I would be amiss to not mention the more contentious side of Thanksgiving, and how it relates to what’s going on in North Dakota right now with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

For the vast majority of Americans, Thanksgiving is seen as a positive holiday. A time to be thankful, appreciate family, good food, and being American. I’m all for that. I think we should always strive to be more grateful and humble at any time of the year. The thing educators don’t dwell on in school in America, is the fact that Thanksgiving whitewashes the genocide of Native Americans in this country.

In case you didn’t already know, the heartwarming story they told you of Squanto and the Pilgrims coming together for a feast to put aside their differences is a fabricated one. Well, at least most historians don’t think it actually happened. There may have been a feast between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims, but if there was one it was more out of desperate need and starvation than it was about acceptance of different cultures.

The “real” Thanksgiving, the one that our holiday is based on, comes from when the Pequot tribe was celebrating their Green Corn Festival in 1637. The Puritans came to their village and massacred over 700 unarmed men, woman, and children of the tribe. They had a “Thanksgiving feast” the next day to celebrate their victory over the heathens. These massacres continued, and after each one they would have a feast and give thanks to their triumps.  Because of this, many Native American tribes recognize a day of mourning on Thanksgiving, whilst the rest of the country eats turkey and watches football.

I’m not saying this to guilt trip anyone. I still think Thanksgiving is a holiday that is a huge part of American culture, and tries to bring about the best of American values and who we strive to be as a nation. But what it is based on is not something to forget either, and I think a lot of my fellow Americans forget about this part of the holiday or simply remain misinformed.

The reason I bring this up is because of the pipeline protest that has been going on in North Dakota. Even the U.N. has denounced the inhuman treatment of the Native American tribes and other protestors by law enforcement.

This protest hasn’t been given much coverage or thought unfortunately by the mainstream media, but protesters are being tear gassed, attacked, and shot at by rubber bullets by law enforcement. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is one of the groups protesting, because this new Dakota Access Pipeline would be built underneath the Missouri River, within a mile of the Sioux Reservation.

This is right next to land that the US government agreed to set aside for them in 1851. Even more serious, if this pipeline were to burst or leak, it could contaminate the fresh water source that the tribe uses on a daily basis. The pipeline is also a major concern for many environmentalists.

In addition to being grateful for things in our own lives this Thanksgiving, we should also notice what’s happening in North Dakota and try to help as best we can. We should also take a moment each year to acknowledge the other side of Thanksgiving, that we so often sweep under the rug of political correctness.

I find it sadly relevant that the Native Americans in this country are again being attacked on the week of Thanksgiving. Let’s not support history repeating itself. Let’s continue to spread gratitude for the positive aspects in this world and for our fellow humans.

Why I'm Thankful and Why We Should Acknowledge the Other Side of Thanksgiving

If you’d like to give back this holiday, here’s how you can help those in North Dakota

  1. Call North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple at (701) 328-220 and the White House at (202) 456-1111. Leave a professional message about why you disagree with the DAPL.
  2. Sign this petition to stop the the building of the pipeline – https://www.change.org/p/stop-the-dakota-access-pipeline.
  3. Donate supplies to Sacred Stone Camp here – http://sacredstonecamp.org/supply-list/.
  4. Donate to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe directly here: http://standingrock.org/news/standing-rock-sioux-tribe–dakota-access-pipeline-donation-fund/.
  5. Volunteer to help Sacred Stone Camp if you have the skills that they need, especially if you have a legal background. Email sacredstonecamp@gmail.com.
  6. Educate yourself, your family, and friends about the developing situation and the best ways to make your voice heard.

How are you celebrating Thanksgiving this year? Have you heard about the DAPL protests? What are your thoughts on this holiday and how it actually originated? 

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Why I'm Thankful and Why We Should Celebrate the Other Side of Thanksgiving | USA

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Mimi McFadden
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Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
Mimi McFadden
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