“Thanks for the wild turkey and the passengerpigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesomeAmerican guts.”From “A Thanksgiving Prayer”William S. Burroughs, 1988
———–When New York Times columnist William Safire informs us that Saddam Hussein is “gaining the power to threaten our cities with annihilation,”and President-Select Bush calls the Iraqi leader” a man who loves to link up with al-Qaeda,” they are remaining faithful to America’s long tradition of subterfuge and pretext.
Even the name “America” can trace its roots to deceit.
———–”Thanks for a continent to despoil and poison. Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum ofchallenge and danger.”-Burroughs———–
Amerigo Vespucci (1451-1512) was a Florentine merchant-adventurer. His self-generated claims as an explorer and as the first white man to reach the mainland of America in June 1497 have long been in dispute due to the geographically unfeasible distances and positions quoted in his letters. While it is widely accepted he made atleast two voyages to the Americas, he was not the leader of any expedition and was not the first European of his era to set foot on the mainland.
America: named after a self-hyping fraud? It’sjust too perfect.
———–”Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin,leaving the carcasses to rot. Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.”-Burroughs———–
Like the Bush and Safire fabrications above, we’ve heard lots of fables to justify war: the sinking of the Maine and the Lusitania, the expected surprise of Pearl Harbor, invisible torpedoes in the Tonkin Gulf, and Iraqi soldiers ripping babies from Kuwaiti incubators. In response to these and other yarns, the Department of War becomes the Department of Defense, missiles become peacekeepers, and “Apache” helicopters are unselfconsciously sent to quell ethnic cleansing.Incendiary bombs fall over Dresden and Tokyo,atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, depleted uranium over Iraq and Yugoslavia (and Vieques),daisy cutters over Afghanistan, and the people of Vietnam are introduced to the smell of napalm in the morning.
Meanwhile, Kissinger wins a Nobel Peace Prize.
———–”Thanks for the KKK; for nigger-killin’ lawmen,feelin’ their notches; for decent church-goin’women, with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.”-Burroughs———–
An internal document, written in 1948 by George Kennan, head of the State Department planning staff in the early post-war period, explained America’s global strategy: “We have about 50% ofthe world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population…In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships, which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction…We should cease to talk about vague and-for the Far East-unreal objectives as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”
———–”Thanks for ‘Kill a Queer for Christ’ stickers.Thanks for Prohibition and the war against drugs.”-Burroughs———–
Founding Father, John Jay-signer of the Declaration of Independence, America’s first Supreme Court Chief Justice, and namesake of a college of criminology located on the island of Manhattan-once declared his belief that America should be governed by “the people who own it.”
One might imagine if Mr. Jay were alive today,he’d be quite pleased with the way things turned out.
———–”Thanks for a country where nobody’s allowed to mind the own business. Thanks for a nation of finks.”-Burroughs———–
Thanksgiving 2002: some 380 years in the making.
The first Thanksgiving probably didn’t take place on the fourth Thursday in November and maybe not in November at all. It was not an annual Pilgrim event and not necessarily tied to the fall (in1623, it may have taken place in July). Even calling it the “first” is a lie. Eastern Indians had observed harvest celebrations for centuries.
———–”Thanks for the American dream: to vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through.”-Burroughs———–
The Pilgrims did not wear buckles on their shoes, hats, or clothing, and probably didn’t eat turkey. As for the legend that they found a large stone at Plymouth Rock and carved in the date 1620, there is no mention of it in any historical account. Also unmentioned is an epidemic (most likely Smallpox introduced by European visitors) that dwarfed the Black Plague in scope. From 1616-1619, between 90 percent and 96 percent of the inhabitants of southern New England were wiped out.
The land subsequently “found” by the Pilgrims was empty for a good reason.
———–”Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.”-Burroughs———–
President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. By 1939, in a move designed to stimulate a Christmas shopping “season,” FDR set the fourth Thursday in November as the official date.
How many shopping days do we really have left?
Mickey Z. is the author of Saving Private Power:The Hidden History of “The Good War” and theupcoming book, The Murdering of My Years: Artists& Activists Making Ends Meet (both from Soft SkullPress). He can be reached at [email protected]