Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1986 -
Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts.
Thanks for a continent to be spoiled and poisoned.
Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger.
Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin, leaving their carcasses to rot.
Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.
Thanks for the American dream to vulgarize and falsify until the bare lies shine through.
Thanks for the KKK, for nigger-killing lawmen feelin' their notches, for decent church-going women with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.
Thanks for "Kill a Queer for Christ" stickers.
Thanks for laboratory AIDS.
Thanks for Prohibition and the War Against Drugs.
Thanks for a country where nobody's allowed to mind his own business.
Thanks for a nation of finks.
Yes, thanks for all the memories . . . ("Alright, let's see your arms"). . . ("You always were a headache and you always were a bore")
Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.
Speaking of Turkey (warning: awkward segue), controversy over Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide has recently re-surfaced due to the nation's desire to join the European Union. But before President Bush and his soon-to-be ex-Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton wag too pious a finger at Istanbul, we need to remember that this country too was founded on genocide.
The natives of the eastern shore were friendly during initial encounters with the white colonists, though when one native allegedly stole a silver cup, an English captain and his men torched an entire village in retribution.
Myles Standish pretended to be a trader and beheaded an Indian man named Wituwamat - he brought his head to Plymouth where it was displayed on a wooden spike for years as a symbol of "white power." Standish had the Indian man's young brother hanged from the rafters for good measure.
Entries from Governor William Bradford's diary included:
"To see them frying in the fire, and the streams of their blood quenching the same, and the stench was horrible; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice and they GAVE PRAISE THEREOF TO GOD."
"It pleased God to visite these Indeans with a great sickness, and such a mortalitie that of a 1000 and a halfe of them dyed, and many of them did rott above ground for want of burial."
The early colonies waged war and succesfully eradicated the native inhabitants of the east coast, namely Powhattan's confederacy, the Narragansetts, and the Pequots. More people came from Europe, and more space was needed. The colonists forced an awful choice on the natives: migrate, or go to war with us. Through uncountable wars and skirmishes and loss of thousands and thousands of lives, the American Indian was ousted from his/her land in all corners of the continent.
Howard Zinn's "A People's History of America" documents the endless series of promises made to various Indian tribes. Of the 350 treaties made with the Indians, every one has been subsequently broken.
Thomas Jefferson told Congress that the Indians should be encouraged to farm small plots of land, to quit hunting, to trade with whites and to incur debts that they would have to pay off with huge tracts of land. He also said, "Two measures are deemed expedient. First to encourage them to abandon hunting. . . Secondly, to multiply trading houses among them. . . leading them thus to agriculture, to manufacturers, and civilization." Zinn points out that Jefferson echoes clearly the point of Karl Marx, who states, "It [capitalism, the bourgeoisie] compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production, it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst."
Andrew Jackson instructed an Army major to tell the Choctaws and Cherokees that they would be given land, outside of the state of Mississippi (their homeland) in which they could be free, and he would protect them as their white father. They could have the land "as long as Grass grows or water runs." This eloquent lie became famous for its symbolic falseness, as it epitomized the whites' ability to make grand promises that kept changing and changing to meet the needs of their growing society, while never considering the lives of the people who lived on the land first (consider the plight of the Dakota, and Crazy Horse). Forced migration and land grubbing by the whites eventually encompassed the entire continent.
Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War; on the same day, he ordered troops to march against the Sioux in Minnesota. He subsequently ordered 38 Santee Sioux hung on Christmas Eve for leaving the reservation in search of food.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, "I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians; but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn't inquire too closely into the case of the tenth."
So, for as long as I've been maintaining this blog, every Thanksgiving I've posted Burrough's prayer. Some have complained that it's too cynical ("Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger"). Given our dreadful history, and the selective national amnesia our country displays each Thanksgiving day, I say it's not cynical enough.