By Anonymous (not verified) on November 22, 2010

Spare me the school-assembly version of Thanksgiving.

Since I was in grammar school, I’ve seen these misleading reenactments.

The Thanksgiving plays and celebrations glamorize the relationship between the Pilgrims and Native Americans.

They falsely portray the Pilgrims as the ones who allowed the Native Americans to sup with them, rather than vice versa.

And they erase the genocide against Native Americans that followed.

The way we celebrate Thanksgiving in this country is — to say the very least — inappropriate.

Few people can even recall the name of the tribe that held Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims. We remember the Pilgrims, not the Wampanoag.

The Thanksgiving story subliminally invites us to believe that indigenous Americans have been offered a place at the table.

Thanksgiving is America’s guilty holiday, a kind of camouflage, a symbolic excuse to ignore the elimination of whole populations of indigenous Americans by disease or war.

The Pilgrims displayed a distinct lack of generosity when Native Americans began dying from smallpox.

“It pleased God to afflict these Indians with such a deadly sickness, that out of 1,000, over 950 of them died, and many of them lay rotting above the ground for want of burial,” wrote William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Colony.

No, the Pilgrims were not architects of all the injustices against Native Americans. But they set the tone.

We do not have to remain stuck helplessly in a yearly cycle of guilty silence, hoping that Thanksgiving doesn’t seem – at its crassest — to be “giving thanks” for exterminated Indians.

Instead, we should petition Congress to rename the holiday. A more appropriate name would be “Family and Early American Heritage Day” to honor all peoples of colonial history.

That way, we could acknowledge that the Pilgrim Thanksgiving encapsulates a dream of what relations with indigenous communities should have been: peaceful relations based on friendship and mutual respect.

Changing the name of Thanksgiving to “Family and Early American Heritage Day” might make everyone’s holiday meal taste better.

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington is a poet and critic living in Charleston, S.C. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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