Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving


First of all, the weed eaters have to go. I mean, who does that on the day before Thanksgiving? It's late November. There ARE no weeds. But we have a mechanical symphony going in stereo -- our neighbors on both sides have decided to vaporize those weeds right into the dirt.

I used to attend a Native American observance of Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Turkey Day is a day of mourning for those who were so royally screwed by the Mayflower riders and their descendants. The pilgrims stole their land, killed as many of them as they could, and imprisoned the rest on reservations.

Indian reservations have the worst schools and medical care in the country, as well as the highest suicide rate. Alcoholism is rampant, which shouldn't surprise anyone considering their entire way of life was destroyed. And then they were "honored" by the dominant culture naming streets in housing developments for them, and wearing turquoise jewelry.

My brother and I once argued about this. His position was that the Indians didn't leave any lasting monuments and deserved to lose their land so it could be improved. Mine was that they slipped through the world without stamping their brand on it. They did no harm but left it as they found it and therefore deserved to remain in charge. This will never be resolved because Native Americans have no political power. A surprising number of people do not even know they still exist, but believe they have gone their way like the buffalo herds that sustained so many of them.

I think this disagreement between members of the same family represents two world views that are diametrically opposed and can probably not be reconciled. Either one is for Indians or one is against them. The rest is what my daughter used to call "excusifying."

Indians from many tribes gathered on a hill overlooking Plymouth Harbor, eloquent speeches were given, and then a few men would walk downhill and piss on Plymouth Rock, which until recently, was surrounded only by a metal chain. (They've since built a mausoleum around it which looks like an ancient Greek ruin in very good condition.) Plymouth Rock should be called Plymouth Pebble; it isn't as large as its fabled presence. But then, all fables are Bunyonesque. Paul, himself, was probably about as tall as Tom Cruise.

After the speeches, everyone would gather in a local church and feast on dishes prepared by women of many tribes. It was wonderful. I was honored to be there, but then, unlike our culture which delights in excluding people, Native American culture is INclusive. Everyone of good will is welcome and judged for himself, regardless of his ethnicity. (Which, of course, is what got them into trouble in the first place.) There is so much we could and should learn from these highly evolved people, but we settle for appropriating their exotic names and discard the rest as irrelevant to our technologically advanced society.

I always prepared the traditional Thanksgiving meal on Sunday so my family wouldn't miss out on chestnut stuffing and pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream dotted with bits of crystallized ginger.

I don't know any Native Americans in California, so we're having Thanksgiving again. It's a great meal. I love doing it. Of course, any meal shared with loved ones is a celebration, so while I'll always love Pocahontas, tomorrow is about family and food for me.

Happy day to all of you! Eat, drink, and especially, be merry.

33 comments:

Lex said...

Same to you and your family.

Thanks for putting Thankgiving into perspective. You always have an interesting one.

mist1 said...

I love this post. Thanks.

Old Scrote said...

You say one is either for the Native Americans or against them. I know so little that I can't fit into either category, so I would ask you to permit me some middle ground between your black and white, so to speak.
Two things seem probable to me, though. First, the white settlers were not as wicked as they are made out to be, and the Indians were not as noble as they are made out to be. Second, the white settlers were not as noble as they are made out to be, and the Indians were not as savage as they are made out to be. If you get my drift...

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Thank you, Lex. You and I are often on the same wave length.

Mist.

I really appreciate your comment. We both love to be funny, but some topics are not laughable.

Jake,

While I recognize that this issue is not black and white, I have to side with those who were destroyed and not their destroyers.

Those nice people who left England seeking freedoms denied them there didn't all stay nice and humble when they reached the New World, which wasn't really new, incidentally. It had been populated for centuries by native peoples who built advanced cultures that worked magnificently for them. They had a lot to lose and they lost most of it.

They may not always have behaved nobly toward the often violent newcomers who quickly took over, but I think one must consider who started the whole thing, who was peaceably existing and who came charging in with swords flashing. And that will put things into a more realistic perspective, hopefully. Even to an Englishman.

monicker said...

Forgive and forget; forget and repeat.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Monicker,

That sounds like good advice in general.

Anonymous said...

Youch! Old Scrote's booboo needs a little kiss.

X <---- (that's a kiss)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Anony,

Sorry if I was harsh. I like Jake. Perhaps I'm a little one-sided on this issue.

From what they tell me, scrotes like kisses, so thanks for helping out.

Crankster said...

Do I see a Tom Cruise theme developing?

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

djn said...

Great post. I always appreciate your perspective.

Speaking of Native American... I can't help but tell you about something I witnessed yesterday. Last Friday I posted because I was so troubled by the fact that two young boys were killed on my street. I haven't seen a day go by since where there weren't mourners around the tree where the boys were killed. Yesterday as I was walking my dog, I witnessed a Native American beating his drum and singing the most haunting song in memory of those two boys. One of the boys was Vietnamese; the other was hispanic so whether the Native American knew either of the boys will never be known to me. But I have to say that since he was there and he was so heart-felt about his need to sing to the make-shift memorial, I was profoundly touched by the effort this man made.

Anyhow, it probably doesn't have much to do with Thanksgiving but in a way it does for me. I was thankful that someone made time out of their daily schedule to do what that man felt he needed to do for those boys. It inspired me...

Happy Thanksgiving to you! Hope it's a blessed day with all your loved ones surrounding you!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Crankster,

I wondered the same thing. As in, hmmm, where did THAT come from? They say you always hate your own worst qualities in others; I'm short, too. But is it my WORST quality? No. I have far worse ones. And to be fair, I don't hate him. I merely find him ridiculous, even for a movie star, and thus consider him fair game.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and all your lovely ladies.

Djn,

I read that post of yours. It was horrifying, but I'm grateful that you and your dog were not quite in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This is a perfectly wonderful story. I am glad that the spirits of those poor boys were honored in this way.

And I agree that it has a lot to do with Thanksgiving because whenever a person puts good energy into the world, we all benefit. There is a phrase in nearly every Native American language that means "we are all related." Everyone knows his place in his family, his tribe, and the cosmos, and no one doubts that the truest blessings are those that are shared by all.

Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story. It inspires me, too.

A very happy holiday to you and your family.

Old Scrote said...

Goodness me, the lengths a fellow has to go to to get his booboo kissed! By the way, I have no idea which bit of me is my booboo, but it sounds like fun.
Seriously, Heart, I sympathise with your strong feelings. It's just that in my life I have seen so many injustices in so many different countries that I find it hard to cope any more with man's inhumanity to man. For what it's worth, I incline to the view that human beings are not naturally wicked, but that they are made wicked by systems and circumstances.
PS I like you too.

Pickled Olives said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

I wanted to jump right into this American Indian conversation, but everything I type, ends up being very wordy. Suffice it to say, the attitudes at the time, the idea of this land being given by the king, land the Indians said they did not own, the desire to enslave the indiginous people (that plan never worked), the desire to colonize for a kings power, whether it be English, Spanish or French, and the growing population all worked completely against the Indians. I feel for the American Indian and the hand they were dealt, but it is what happened. We can only change our future. Keep pushing for unity and peace!!!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Jake,

I, too, believe that most people are not innately wicked. Unfortunately, most of us deeply believe that right is on our side, (or God,) and that can naturally lead to wicked behaviors toward each other.

This is a topic that could be explored endlessly.

I would wish you a happy Thanksgiving, but I'm not sure when it is. The Canadian holiday was October 9th, or 2nd Monday, whichever is relevant. Is it the same in Great Britain?

Olives,

Actually, the Spanish under Cortez did enslave some Native Americans during the conquests, and sent them back to Spain.

But of course we can't do anything about the past except try not to repeat the same kinds of grievous crimes against humankind.

It would be a glorious thing if we could ever get that right.

Sven said...

Nice. I'm with you 100%.

thethinker said...

Another Tom Cruise line. I love it.

I agree with your interpretation of Thanksgiving. There are two sides to every story and unfortunately the Indians' side of the story doesn't get voiced often.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, whichever way you choose to interpret or celebrate it.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Sven,

So that means we're 200% right. And God is on our side.

Thinker,

Thank you! It was great, and I'm stuffed just like the turkey I cooked. I hope you had a wonderful holiday with your big family.

Sven said...

Hell, we could take that motto on the campaign trail. Wanna run for President with me?

Dan said...

Happy Thanksgiving Heart. Nice post!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Sven,

Depends. I've never wanted to be VICE President. (What is that, anyway? The presidential vice squad? Vice monger? Are they for it or against it? They should really be more clear.)

The White House will be on Lake Minnetonka, one of the loveliest places on earth, with a pied a terre in San Francisco and another in NYC. Camp David will be on Maui.

On second thought, YOU be President. I'll just hang out in those great places because everyone knows the vice pres. doesn't do anything, anyway.

Dan!

I hope your T-day was excellent! And now we all have Christmas to get through. So many holidays, so little time.

Old Scrote said...

There is no Thanksgiving Day or similar celebration in the UK: it is strictly an American/Canadian phenomenon, although various Commonwealth countries like Australia have their "National Days". The nearest we get to an autumnal whingding is Bonfire Night on 5 November, when we burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes, the leader of a conspiracy to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. Not much to celebrate compared to Thanksgiving, but the firework displays are nice.

velvet girl said...

Unfortunately, the "victors" are the ones who write the history books. Europeans have historically treated indigenous people rather shabbily, no matter where they landed.

The arrogance of the Europeans was always evident in their claim to have discoverd this continent, despite it already being inhabited.

Great post.

Odat said...

Heart,
Thanks so much for sharing this and the comments were just as interesting!!! I for one am with the side for preserving earth, whoever and whereever they're from!
Hope your holiday was great!
Peace

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Scrote,

Do the Irish have a bonfire for Oliver Cromwell?

Velvet Girl,

I love your comment. It's so true that the victors write the history books, so it's likely that few historic events were actually as presented.

And I agree that the Europeans have consistently massacred or enslaved native peoples wherever they've planted the Union Jack, never considering that they were also human beings with rights.

Thanks for your visit!

Odat,

My holiday was lovely and delicious, and I hope yours was, too.

I think the best part of my posts is always the comments because y'all are so fun and interesting.

katrice said...

Great post! I agree with you wholeheartedly. So much injustice to so many nations... it's infuriating.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Thank you, Katrice.

Yes, indeedy. It is unconscionable to cram ones way of life, religion, or language down another's throat. ESPECIALLY when you are on their land.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Thank you, Katrice.

Yes, indeedy. It is unconscionable to cram ones way of life, religion, or language down another's throat. ESPECIALLY when you are on their land.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Hey, I didn't know Plymouth Rock was that small. Too bad you couldn't have put something next to it so I could get a better idea of its size. I hope your Thanksgiving went without a hitch, without any arguments.

Thailand Gal said...

Excellent post.. and excellent comment thread! I am also inclined to believe it is systems and circumstances that bring about evil. Imperialism is a system and it is incorporated into a cultural mindset and becomes acceptable that way.


Peace,

~chani

heartinsanfrancisco said...

JR,

When I last saw Plymouth Rock, it was about 3 1/2' in diameter. In 1774, it was moved to Plimoth Plantation from the harbor, cracked in half and had to be put back together with concrete glue. It has been moved several times, and numerous pieces of it chipped off and sold to souvenir hunters over the years. Finally, the top half was placed in its present site, and about 1/3 of that remains today, although it is estimated that the original rock weighed 20,000 lbs.

No arguments, thank you. I hope your holiday was excellent, too.

Chani,

That's what happens when arrogant people decide that God is on their side and endorses whatever madness and cruelty their cause requires.

I hope your holiday was peaceful and lovely.

urban-urchin said...

I loved this- any subtle dig at Tom Cruise makes me laugh for some reason.

Hope you had a wonderful day.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Urchin,

Hi! I hope your day was terrific, too, and that everybody is well.

It's probably time to put Tom to rest, at least here. What do you think?

curmudgeon said...

Weed eaters humming? Why, that was the vegetarians cutting up their Thanksgiving meal!