Posted by James McPherson on November 24, 2011
Above is a classic 1951 expression of what some of the things we have to be thankful for today as Americans (assuming we’re not those Native Americans typically cast as Pilgrim Squanto/Tonto helpmates in the traditional Thanksgiving saga, before William Bradford and other Colonial forefathers were expressing thanks that they could kill so many Indians.
Below are some highlights of the video, along with my related comments:
Expressing thanks for the “free public library,” public education and “hot water out of the tap”?
Sounds like socialism to me.
Thankful to “be able to go to any church I want”? Even one that’s not Christian? Hmm.
“For living where schools–all schools–open their doors to a guy who wants to learn”?
Well, a white guy, anyway, here in 1951.
“Thankful that my children have the privilege of being born safely, and of growing up healthy and strong”?
Not as privileged as kids in Canada or Australia or New Zealand or virtually any European nation, but much better than if they were poor or non-white Americans.
“Glad Dad doesn’t have to work slave hours, that there are evenings and Sundays and vacations when we can all be together”?
And so thank God for the unions that brought us those things?
Thankful for “a place we can be together in privacy” and “knowing the knock on our door is nothing to fear”?
At least for most white middle-class Americans, before the Patriot Act.
“And I’m thankful for my newspaper … more valuable than any amount of money, because in it the editor’s got the privilege of printing what he thinks, and I’ve got the privilege of agreeing with him or not, however the facts strike me.”
“And finally, I’m thankful for being able to believe, in spite of everything, that somehow, some way, the unity we’ve got here in the Johnson family will someday spread to men and nations throughout the world.”
However delusional the thought: Amen.
Posted in Education, History, Politics, Video | Tagged: first Thanksgiving, Indians, Native Americans, Patriot Act, Pequot War, Squanto, Thanksgiving, Tonto, William Bradford | 1 Comment »
Posted by James McPherson on November 27, 2008
One of the many hopes of those who voted for Barack Obama is that the embarrassment of Guantanamo might be closed. One of the very few benefits of Guantanamo, and of prisons in general, is the occasional glimpses of light cast on the humanity and hope of even the most destitute.
“Cup poems,” words scratched with pebbles into Styrofoam, offer one example. Perhaps none of the writings offered in one collection are great poetry, and one Amazon reviewer writes about the book of collected poems: “This is not poetry. It’s a political agenda chopped up into lines.” But for me, that raises the eternal question of what makes poetry great.
I would put such things as timeless truths and important questions high on the list. Great poems also must include beautiful, or at least creative, use of language, and that may be where the collection falls short. Still, there are lines worth considering as we reflect today on what we are most thankful for, including these words from the “world’s most famous journalist,: Sami al-Hajj:
They have monuments to liberty
And freedom of opinion, which is well and good.
But I explained to them
That architecture is not justice.
Speaking of architecture, in January I will visit Ground Zero and the Statue of Liberty for the first time. I’ve been thankful since the presidential election that the loss of the World Trade Center hasn’t quite managed to make Lady Liberty irrelevant.
Yet I also realize that despite the warnings of folks such as Deepak Chopra, yesterday’s unfortunate attacks and ongoing hostage situation in India (for which, despite hundreds of casualties, CNN felt obligated to provide a story headlined “Terrified Westerners describe Mumbai chaos” and a link to a separate story titled “Nashville woman hurt in Mumbai attacks”) make it likely that some will want to renew the same kind of policies that led to Guantanamo.
As we prepare to raise our own cups, let us be thankful on this day–but let us also pray for wisdom.
Next day update: While American media, including CNN, Fox News and The New York Times, bring the issue home by focusing stores on the Americans killed or injured in Mumbai–and Fox “terror expert” Walid Phares asks, “Are we at war, or not?” and argues that “the Jihadists are winning,” while Fox columnist John Avlon argues, “The war that was indelibly declared on September 11, 2001 continues unabated , not just against the U.S. but worldwide … ultimately a war between civilization and the terrorists”–Al-Jazeera again is left to remind us of the broader perspective, that the attacks are raising indigation around the world.
Posted in History, Journalism, Poetry, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: 2008 election, al-Jazeera, Barack Obama, CNN, cup poems, Deepak Chopra, Fox News, Ground Zero, Guantanamo, Mumbai, Mumbai attacks, Nashville woman, New York Times, Poetry, pray for thanks, pray for wisdom, presidential election, Sami al-Hajj, Statue of Liberty, terrorism, Thanksgiving, Walid Phares, war on terror, war on terrorism, world's most famous journalist | 2 Comments »
Posted by James McPherson on November 22, 2008
Though a few potential candidates have apparently been scared off by the vetting process (or perhaps by the idea of being forced to take a pay cut, or just by the realization that things are so screwed up they have little chance of keeping their political reputations intact), Barack Obama continues to work on choosing staffers and what is shaping up to be a conservative cabinet.
He also used his radio program today to propose a sweeping jobs program that would create 2.5 million jobs by 2011. That sounds great on its face, and I like the focus on rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, green technology, and possible public works programs.
Still, considering that we’ve lost more than a million jobs in the past year with no end to the layoffs in site, while the nation’s population continues to increase, I can’t help but wonder if it might take 2.5 million jobs just to put us about where we would have been in 2011 under growth that not long ago would have been considered “normal.” (For the record, I don’t consider constant growth to necessarily be a positive, but that’s a separate issue too complicated to get into for today’s post.)
By the way, I wonder if the 10 or 12 people listening to the broadcast were surprised to hear something substantive. After all, politicians usually use Friday and Saturday to release news they don’t want heard. John McCain’s announcement that he had chosen Sarah Palin as his running mate was one notable exception, though some Republicans delusional enough to think McCain had a realistic chance of beating Obama now wish no one had noticed that announcement, either.
Speaking of Palin, one apparent problem with the “land of the midnight sun”: It is apparently impossible for some losing political candidates to “go softly into that good night,” even long enough for the winner to take office. To quote another Dylan Thomas line, Palin continues to “rage against the dying of the light”–the little red light indicating that a TV camera is on, that is.
Like it or not, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Palin, as she reportedly is considering requests from almost every media organization you’ve ever heard of. Palin has become the new Paris Hilton, and many of those media types undoubtedly are hoping she’ll say or do something dumb–as she did this week when, after “pardoning” a Thanksgiving turkey, she submitted to an interview while two other turkeys apparently were killed on camera behind her. The good news: They weren’t shot from a helicopter.
In the interview Palin also notes that she’s “in charge of the turkey” for her family’s Thanksgiving dinner, despite a recent pro-Palin ad campaign that touts moose stew as an alternative to the traditional bird. Below you can see Obama’s radio address, followed by the Palin story. Watch both, and reflect on how lucky we are that the right one will be in the White House.
Posted in Journalism, Politics, Video, Written elsewhere | Tagged: Barack Obama, Dylan Thomas, economic meltdown, economy, go softly into that good night, green technology, infrastructure, jobs bill, jobs creation, jobs program, John McCain, Obama cabinet, presidential cabinet, presidential election, presidential race, public works projects, Sarah Palin, Thanksgiving, turkey killing, turkey pardon, vetting process | 7 Comments »