I recently taught my little first graders about the first Thanksgiving. It was an exciting story about how the Native Americans taught the European settlers how to survive the harsh winters and what foods to cultivate and what animals to raise. The resulting lessons culminated in a celebration of survival.
Ever since, Americans celebrate that first Thanksgiving. In many homes, there are lavish feasts, warm fireplaces, and family reunions. The smell of stuffed turkey, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce drift above our homes and permeate the seasonal atmosphere.
Most stores now have their Christmas decorations up as well. So our two major holidays will blend into one long one. American hearts will feel cheerier and that magical Christmas spirit will linger with us even after the presents under the tree have disappeared.
It is fine and wonderful to celebrate our holidays. But why do we feel that holiday celebrations are unique only to Americans? Why don’t we honor and respect the holidays of others around the world?
The American invasion of Falluja was undertaken during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and during the first few days of Eid-ul-Fitr. Eid-ul-Fitr is one of two holiest Muslim holidays celebrated every year. But this year, many Falluja residents celebrated their holy days by burying their dead and digging out the remains of what was once their homes. We Americans expect the Iraqi people to welcome our forced occupation of their country. We call anyone who dares to oppose us as insurgents forgetting that not so long ago, we fought off our own British occupiers.
The death toll in Falluja has reached more than 1,200 with thousands of more wounded. Our “freeing” of the Iraqi people and ridding them of Saddam Hussein has cost the loss of more than 100,000 Iraqis and more than 1,000 Americans.
Meanwhile in Palestine, the occupation of the Palestinians and their land continues. We call those who fight for their freedom terrorists. We call those who steal Palestinian land and homes, people who are fighting terrorism. We somehow think that bulldozers, Israeli tanks and F-16 fighter jets are a defense against those who are really defending their rights and their freedom against an illegal and foreign occupation. What can a stone do against an F-16? This Ramadan, countless Palestinian homes were bulldozed by the Israeli military and in one house, two sleeping boys were plowed under with the debris. Their cold-blooded murder was not in defense of Israeli security. It was simply, exactly what it was, the disrespect of anything Palestinian, be it the lives of small children, or the only refuge that sheltered them.
We cannot continue to live our double standards and expect the world to accept or even understand them. Might does not make right. Everyone, not just Americans, is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Everyone not just Americans, has the right to celebrate their own holy days. How can we preach brotherly love and peace at the end of a gun, under occupation and by condoning whatever atrocities Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and our own American president George W. Bush commit?
Even though the lies for the original invasion of Iraq have been uncovered, we continue to force our version of freedom all over Iraq. It is tragic that Bush pushed for a war without a reason and that inspite of this, America continues to occupy Iraq. And what exactly are the spoils of war? Iraqi oilfields? The total crushing of an army that might have posed a threat not to America, but to Israel? A strategic position in the Middle East, possibly right next door to Iran, the next victim of a warped American foreign policy plotted by warmongers and oilmen?
It is also tragic that the real mass killer, the real terrorist, Ariel Sharon, is lauded as a champion of peace when in reality he is much more deadly than Adolf Hitler ever was, and everywhere, all over what is left of Palestine, among the Killing Fields, neo-Nazi concentration camps with Berlin Walls are cropping up.
There will be no Thanksgiving turkey for Iraqis and Palestinians this year. There will be no Santa on his sled dispersing gifts for bright-eyed Iraqi and Palestinian children. There will only be death, destruction and the horror of war all around them.