Thanksgiving was yesterday. I ate turkey and picked at some tofurkey and lots of mashed potatoes and stuffing. My father-in-law can rock a pecan pie and I made myself silly over it.
It seems almost trite, historically amnesiatic and definitely retro to focus on the “thanks” in Thanksgiving, given that the holiday is founded in the United States’ racism and territorial bloodlust and is now almost completely eclipsed by a mindless bacchanal of consumption. I am talking about Black Friday: As soon as the bird is stripped of flesh and the last fork of pie is swallowed, the family heads off to Target or Kohls or Macys to prepare for the stampede. In fact, for many the big family dinner is a quaint has-been; in Louisville, Ky., people started lining up at Best Buy on Tuesday to get their big screen TVs and iPhone 5s.
But the Black Friday swarm is just one more of America’s many traditions of which I am happy to remain ignorant. (I did at least try my hand at trick-or-treating for the first time this year, though. Not all bad.)
Instead of spending today tugging on one end of a $29.95 WWE Brawlin’ Buddy (there are more than 10 different large plush wrestlers from Connecticut Senate contender Linda McMahon’s ring that shoppers can choose from that grunt and trash-talk as you pummel them — including one named Sheamus), I will express my gratitude.
Here are a few things I am thankful for, in no particular order:
The Nation magazine. I interned there when I first moved to New York in 1998. They paid me ($50 a week), took me out to lunch, introduced me to my mentor and (eventually) friend Bill Hartung, and gave me a launching pad for my “career” (such as it is). Even more importantly, the magazine is a platform for engaged progressive discourse. It excoriates the right constantly and the liberals when necessary (which is almost constantly). They have reporters on the ground where the stories are (read Mohammed Omer on Gaza from Gaza) around the world and dig deep with hard-hitting investigations. Lilliana Segura on the prison industrial complex, Laura Flanders on austerity, Chris Hayes on Gaza, my old friend Jeremy Scahill (he’s actually younger than me) on the Petraeus legacy… they rock and you should subscribe!
Midwives! They helped me through a three-day labor that ended well (read: no caesarian) in the hospital. (I am also grateful for Dr. Bird and Middlesex Hospital and state insurance for low income mothers which puts me solidly in Romney’s 47 percent.) Midwives help women have babies; sounds simple, right? But, it is hard work and not legal in 23 states. This is a problem. Consider these facts: The United States spends $98 billion on hospitalization for pregnancy and childbirth per year — more than any other country in the world. Despite this massive investment, the maternal mortality rate has doubled in the last 25 years. Black Americans are three times more likely to die in childbirth than whites. These statistics are terrible — and this suffering and dying is the result of lack of access to affordable health care generally, poor prenatal care specifically, and too many drugs and too much intervention at the hospital. In some places almost half of women end up having c-sections. Attended homebirths are illegal in Alabama, which has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the in the country and very few obstetricians. Ina May Gaskin, the mother of all midwives, is only a household name in certain small circles, but she is gaining greater attention — she was profiled in the New York Times magazine this year — and her message of woman-centered childbirth is growing in popularity. Her latest work, Birth Matters, has a forward by alt-folk rock goddess Ani DiFranco.
The Postal Service. The New London post office has a series of murals commissioned during the 1930s that pay tribute to our maritime past. They are beautiful. That is a good thing, because there is always a line at my local post office. I wait a long time for my chance with Steve or Cheryl at the counter and end up staring at men pulling on ropes in a stormy sea scene a lot. The Postal Service is in crisis in the United States; volume is down (21% since 2006), competition is up (FedEx, email, the cloud, etc) and so is debt (the USPS defaulted again in October). Red tape is endemic. (Did you know that the Post Office may be the only entity in the United States which has to have all the money for its workers’ health care in the bank decades in advance?) I know that my own commitment to the written word at 44 cents an envelope is not saving the behemoth, but I enjoy doing my part.
You. Yep, you. You are doing great things in the world. Weeping over and organizing against the terror in Gaza. Baking cookies for your daughter’s bake sale. Helping your church with a food drive for the still needy victims of Hurricane Sandy. Planting trees. Adopting a kid out of the foster care system. Working the line at the soup kitchen. Stopping by with a casserole for someone who just had a baby. Recovering from your annual trek to the gates of Fort Benning — the School of the Assassins. Supporting the union drive at Walmart. Visiting your friend in the hospital. Organizing to shut down Guantanamo. Tutoring in an after school program. Becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister. Chatting with your neighbor. Refusing to pay war taxes. Picking up trash on your daily constitutional. Brewing your own beer. Putting the garden to bed for the winter.
Thank you for all you do, keep on doing it, do more. Happy Thanksgiving.
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“…Thanksgiving, given that the holiday is founded in the United States’ racism and territorial bloodlust…”
Is this ‘Hate America’ speech?
I don’t share the ‘Hate America’ groupthink, because it dishonestly uses an oversimplification of history.
‘Hate America’ is indeed Hate.
‘Hate America’ groupthink I’ve found to be from Howard Zinn’s popular book. While accurate, he portrays and shapes history as equally damaging in perspective as the mainstream Heroic history books. Moreover, the jacket back text indicates his work is a counter-balance. Meaning it’s as extreme as what it challenges.
I don’t deny past events, but these are hate words when said in the same manner as those of the heroic history side.
While you have an opinion, and I have an opinion on how to discuss these matters, if people are to proceed and progress, we must also change the dialog that way too.
Maybe there are unresolved issues you want to discuss, then do so appropriately. However, it’s your article.
But, caution may be in order, as can be reasoned from the latest “bloodlust” in the Middle East from an obscene amount of killing not fully understood or explained rationally in my lifetime.
Keeping alive unsettled events of the past need to be resolved, not continued. If they can’t be resolved, then what?
I think you’re putting words in Frida’s mouth here. She didn’t say anything about hate.
I’m someone who loves the United States. I love traveling across it and meeting its people. I think it stands for some decent ideals, in theory. But it is frankly undeniable that the primary feature of the country’s early history was the removal and transferral of existing civilizations from their land, and the enslavement of millions of people. Both processes were drawn along the lines of race. Today, the U.S. government attempts to control the entire world through military installations and interventions. And more black men are currently in prison than were under slavery at the start of the Civil War. Not only is gross injustice a basic feature of this country’s history, many of those same injustices continue to be perpetuated today, albeit in different forms. I can only hope that by recognizing our failures in the past we can begin to right the wrongs of the present.
Being honest and humble about our history is an act of love and of hope; whitewashing and ignorance and blind patriotism will bring us far closer to the path of more hate.
I love my country, and I don’t think Frida was saying she hated this country. She was just saying the truth about some of the serious warts our country wears — with pride, I am embarrassed to say. We have been at war for 209 years of the 235 years we have been a country. Too many of us haven’t realized that war is a fool’s game that only a very few wealthy war profiteers win. It is valuable to remember the tradition of violence that plagues our country still.
Remember, back in 1812, Canada and the British burned down the White House. The US had the idea that they should take over Canada and that Canadians would welcome them as liberators, and the great riches in Canada would be America’s. Does that sound familiar? Well, the war was fought to a stand still with no gains on either side – just death and destruction. The native people were completely ripped off by both sides and that continues to happen.
Now, the oil and gas corporations have figured out that the American people are compliant enough to money that they can come in and take over the country to the South. We, the USA, seemed to have bought that line about the people of one country welcoming invading forces as liberators, and now we think that the KXL will bring us jobs and cheap gas! What a line? and the hook? a corrupt court and the greedy 2% who will sell the people down the river for money and power as if that were the only thing of value in this life. It is time for the rest of us to realize our power and value.
When we wake up, and we are, the corporations will be relegated to the function as tools with the people in charge of their license to be operated. The sooner we stop the destruction of the forests for toxic shale oil, the sooner we can clean up the mess the extractive industries are causing, and get on to sustainable green energy and jobs.
I agree with her appreciation for midwives. I know Ina Mae and 3 of my children were born at home in a partnership with midwives. Ina Mae caught my youngest. I feel sorrow for the millions of women who have been denied the empowerment and joy of being present and in control of the birth of their children.
I agree with her when she notes the attack against our Post Office. The rite wing wants to privatize the people’s mail and remove another strong union from service. It is time for us to tell Congress to stop handicapping our public unions and keep the commons under the oversight of the public. Don’t hand our resources over to private corporations that will not listen or feel obligations to the citizens who have built them.
No, I love my country as I love my children. When they are in the wrong, I correct them. When they do well, I am glad to say so. I want my American community to live up to the high ideals I see so many of my friends and neighbors practicing. When my government fails to meet our standards of behavior, I have the right to object and work hard to change it’s bad actions. In fact, it is my duty, and the civic duty of us all to be fair to each other and to insist that the people we elect/hire to represent our values and interests do their jobs.
Eric, you say “I have an opinion on how to discuss these matters”. I see this is your method:
1) You introduce the word “hate”.
2) You see opposition, even shame, about policies of government, either past or present, as demonstrating a lack of “love of country”.
3) You seem to believe that a correction of an omission in the historical narrative is, ipso facto, appropriately called extremist, rather than informative.
Unless I misread what you are saying, our premises are so different that I feel a discussion would be painful.
Great blog! Sorry to get off subject, but I’m new to town and I’m looking for a great Nashville auto repair company,so I can get my oil changed. Have you read any recent buzz? There’s a new auto repair shop called Veterans Auto Services, but I’ve only seen a few reviews. Here’s the address of this new Nashville Auto Repair, Veterans Auto Services 2404 CruzenSt Nashville, TN 37211 (615) 712-9777. Thoughts? Thanks!