Yes, yes, YES! While I don’t plan to make a habit of merely echoing stuff published elsewhere, this is just too good not to re-post. For several years I’ve been struggling to find the words to explain my discomfort with all the “Support the Troops” messages that pervade our mental environment. This article knocks it out of the park. You, and I do mean you, need to read it:
Since this is a new blog, and you’re a new reader of it, please have a peek at my About and Terms & Definitions pages (links at top of page). They might be mildly entertaining. Or informative. Or not. But do it ’cause I said so, K? Thanks.
Well, of course I mean Thanksgiving, silly. I just queered the name a little to make you stop and think, if only for an instant. And you did, didn’t you? Good.
We didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving at my house. My wife had to work; all my family is in Illinois and Texas and British Columbia and the East Coast; hers is all in Japan. But really, I’m okay with that. I think I would have been a total sourpuss if I’d had to cook the traditional feast again.
Because the thing I can no longer ignore—and that I believe all of us Euro-Americans must come to terms with—is that the traditional Thanksgiving story, taught to us in our childhoods and reinforced year after year through the conventions of the holiday—the story of a friendly harvest feast shared between Pilgrims and Indians—is a myth, if not an outright lie.
Pardon my bluntness, but the Pilgrims were murderers. It has been said that the storied First Thanksgiving was really a commemoration of a massacre. While I cannot vouch for the truth of that specific claim, what is well documented is that in the early years of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, European settlers roved through the countryside, burning down Native villages, destroying Native crops, and slaughtering Native people when they could find them.
By the way, my principal authority for this is Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. You may disagree with Zinn’s bottom-up view of society or his left-leaning politics, but as far as I know his work has never been debunked on a factual basis.
You should also look at this commemorative plaque placed by the Town of Plymouth, Mass. I would think that the Plymouth town council knows better than most what took place in their town.
“Okay,” you say, “I get it. We should put on our hair shirts and beat our breasts and hate ourselves for being such terrible, oppressive White people.”
Now bear in my mind that I am myself a European-American, and do not claim to represent any Native tribe, let alone all Native Americans. I’m just speaking for myself, but in solidarity with indigenous peoples. In any case, I have never heard Indians saying that we are terrible people because of what our ancestors did, or that we should give up celebrating the harvest or sharing good food with our friends and families.
What I believe we are called to do is, first, to face the truth about our violent past; and second, to work toward changing our violent present.
Wait a minute, though. We don’t slaughter Indians in cold blood any more, do we?
Well, no we don’t. And although it is said (and I am inclined to believe) that the conditions of life on Indian reservations are a form of violence by Europeans against Natives, I don’t know nearly enough to really argue that point, so I’ll leave it for others.
But I do know that our country continues to kill people we consider inferior. Mostly, these days, outside of our borders, in places like Pakistan, Palestine, and Colombia, but as far as I am concerned, human life is human life, and killing is killing, and if you can’t agree with that simple point, I really wonder about you. I could cite a number of examples, but let’s focus on one well-documented case: President Barack Obama’s “kill list.” This is just utterly, incredibly, wrong, and if we Americans want to be worthy to walk among the civilized peoples of the earth, we need to stop this.
So how about this for a new and more honorable Thanksgiving? Let’s “pay it forward”: first, by supporting honest, hardworking, local food producers; and second, by committing ourselves to breaking our country of its addiction to violence and exploitation.
In other words, have the feast, have the family gathering, but instead of stuffing ourselves with grotesque quantities of supermarket food, buy local; buy quality; keep the quantities moderate. And as we have our feasts, let us think about what we can do to put our country on a better, more humane, course.
So, this past Tuesday was Transgender Day of Remembrance. I wrote this poem and read it at our local observance; apparently a number of people found it meaningful. I do have to say in hindsight that I find it pretty odd that I would write a poem calling for courage and love, when I have so little of either. But maybe the words are worth something, even if the author fails to live up to them. See what you think.
For The Ones
For the ones who will never laugh again
For those who will not cry
Should we sit and scratch our heads
And wonder, wonder why?
Or should we follow them into the starless night,
Throwing our lives away?
Or just give up, keeping the life and losing the soul,
Sinking ever deeper into the grey, gritty quicksand of a life …
One beyond tears, it may be.
But also one beyond hope, one beyond dreams.
A sad, silent, senseless life stuck behind a wall
That shuts us off from all that makes us human?
Never! For this alone we must not do.
Never! Betray the memory of those who have gone before …
The ones who are no more.
Never! Give up on the ones whose lives were taken, far too young, far too soon.
Never! Forget what you know. Who you are.
Who we are, and the beauty our lives can be.
Never! Doubt for a moment that this, now, today, this is our time.
They call to you, my sisters
They call to you, my brothers
They call to me, to all of us … in the stillness, can you hear?
They call on us … to carry on
They call on us … to live our lives
They call on us … to love.