[News] Native Americans Should Have Let the Pilgrims Starve

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 8 11:19:43 EST 2013

Weekend Edition November 8-10, 2013

*The Day of the Fools*

  Native Americans Should Have Let the Pilgrims Starve


British historian EJ Hobsbawm died just over a year ago. His works had a 
tremendous impact on my generation of progressive historians. He would 
take a theme and deconstruct it by using meticulous logic and 
documentation. Hobsbawm never suffocated his narrative with obtuse 
theory or meta-language.

One of my favorites was a thin anthology that he co-edited with Terence 
Ranger titled /The Invention of Tradition/.  In his introductory essay, 
Hobsbawm defined the invention of tradition as "a set of practices ... 
of a ritual or symbolic nature, which seek to inculcate certain values 
and norms of behaviour by repetition, which automatically implies 
continuity with the past." The invented traditions had a purpose, and 
gave a continuity of varied accuracy that formed a largely fictitious 

Other historians have tied this invention of tradition to state building 
endeavors. William H. Beezley in /Mexican National Identity: Memory, 
Innuendo, and Popular Culture/ sees identity as fashioned "in the 
streets"; however, there are others who say that very few holidays come 
from the people, tying the process to state building.

Essentially, the state builds a historical narrative that gives its 
citizens a sense of unity. Holidays are designed to give legitimacy to 
the accepted version of history that not does always conform to the 
Truth. It is a process that builds a "national culture."

Deviation from this narrative disturbs people and even offends them. My 
sister would not invite me to social gatherings during the Vietnam War 
because I would bring up topics such as racism, police brutality and the 
Vietnam War. I was told that I was a party pooper, and would lay 
intellectual pedos (farts)---forcing people to move away.

Hobsbawm was like Rene Descartes who in the 17th century began his 
journey by questioning scholasticism, and paved the way for historical 
materialism. It was and is not easy to correct traditional narratives. 
Like toddlers people want to hear stories told the way they first 
learned them.  There are people who still cling to the story of George 
Washington cutting down the cherry tree, for instance.

The months of October and November are replete with fictitious versions 
of history.  During these to months, the state allocates holidays for 
Columbus Day, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.  These official narratives 
become the Truth. Teachers teach students fictitious narratives, and in 
turn the public is grateful for the gift of a holiday.

By far the "the king of the holidays" is Thanksgiving. The narrative has 
been burned into our consciousness to the point that few Americans 
question the facts because no one wants to lay the proverbial 
intellectual pedo.

Almost everyone is grateful for the day off. Merchants love 
Thanksgiving. It is the perfect opening act for Christmas.

The ritual of sitting down with the family to eat cheap turkey, chucked 
full of hormones, has been immortalized by Norman Rockwell. It is a day 
when you eat cheap turkeys and hams and everyone can pig out.

Not much thought is given to the truth of the narrative. Kids just want 
their four day relief from school, and parents are smug in the belief 
that the colonist and the Indians lived in peace. The only ones that 
care about changing the narrative are Native Americans who call it a 
National Day of Mourning.

I call Thanksgiving "/El Día de los Pendejos/" (The Day of the Fools). I 
tell my students to enjoy making graveyards out of their stomachs that 
they fill with the flesh of turkeys that have been held prisoners in 
small dirty cages.

Why do I call the Indians fools? Because they should have let the 
Pilgrims starve.

Few people know that the tradition of Thanksgiving was invented during 
the Civil war by President Abraham Lincoln in October 1863 when he 
proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday. Thereafter, the myth of the 
Pilgrims and the Indians was constructed.

The story is known by almost every American. For twelve years, from 
K-12, they learn the story of that in the early autumn of 1621 
fifty-three surviving Pilgrims celebrated a successful harvest. The 
natives joined the celebration and instead of attacking the Pilgrims 
they made peace.

The Indians were thanked: their land was stolen from them, they were 
massacred, and many lived out their lives in slavery. The consequence is 
that less than one percent of Americans have Native American blood, 
contrasted to 90 percent of Mexican Americans with indigenous blood.

It is difficult to change the narrative because most Americans love 
their myths, and they love their cheap turkey. They want to believe the 
lie that makes them feel exceptional.

There is little doubt that invented tradition strengthens nationalism. 
The elites are legitimized by the invented traditions, and in turn they 
invent other traditions. This phenomenon is not exclusive to the United 
States where it permeates political views and historical narratives.

No doubt that Thanksgiving happened. However, the narrative is not 
vetted, and it introduces a new set of dynamics. It affects our 
decision-making, and often clouds what is true and what is fiction.

When the French peasantry was starving in the 18^th century because they 
could not afford bread, it caused widespread discontent. The myth was 
born that French Queen Marie Antoinette said, "Let them eat cake." It 
inflamed the masses -- beautiful story but it wasn't true.

Traditional narratives are good and bad, and are difficult to correct. 
As Napoleon once said, history is the tale of the victor. Today the 
narrative belongs to the state and those who control the state.

The truth be told, Thanksgiving hides the reality of the soup kitchens. 
The corporate owned media show charitable groups passing out free 
traditional Turkey Dinners to the poor when the reality is that many 
have been deprived of jobs, food stamps, and their children have been 
robbed of free nutritious lunches. Greater numbers are homeless. Yet the 
Thanksgiving narrative shows us as a compassionate people -- one big 
happy family.

The myth of the grateful Pilgrims permeates this narrative. In many 
ways, we are like the Indians who were robbed and killed after sharing 
our labor.

The invented tradition of Thanksgiving is so much part of the American 
narrative that many people go into depression if they cannot celebrate 
it with family and friends. Psychologists say that it is the worse time 
of the year to be alone; loneliness causes a social anxiety disorder (SAD).

Thanksgiving is the ultimate example of social control, and the invented 
reality that Americans like the pilgrims were justified in stealing the 
land and killing the people.

Our lives become one big Thanksgiving for being an American. The Sierra 
Club reports "that the average American will drain as many resources as 
35 natives of India and consume 53 times more goods and services than 
someone from China ... With less than 5 percent of world population, the 
U.S. uses one-third of the world's paper, a quarter of the world's oil, 
23 percent of the coal, 27 percent of the aluminum, and 19 percent of 
the copper."

There is a similar gap between the poor and the 1 percent in America.  
The fictitious history alleviates our guilt, and we forget the reasons 
why some people are in food lines, and others are eating cheap hormone 
infected birds, while a few eat organic turkey.

Not knowing, not questioning makes this El Día de los Pendejos. We are 
fools because we don't question the narrative. It is why we keep 
repeating injustices.

So now pass me the gravy.

/*RODOLFO ACUÑA*, a professor emeritus at California State University 
Northridge, has published 20 books and over 200 public and scholarly 
articles. He is the founding chair of the first Chicano Studies Dept 
which today offers 166 sections per semester in Chicano Studies. His 
history book Occupied America 
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0205786189/counterpunchmaga> has 
been banned in Arizona. In solidarity with Mexican Americans in Tucson, 
he has organized fundraisers and support groups to ground zero and 
written over two dozen articles exposing efforts there to nullify the 
U.S. Constitution./

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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