Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Our family is very thankful this year, for so many things. We have a happy, healthy family, a home, good food, enough of it, and hope for the future. We appreciate our good fortune, and think of those who must do without.

While a fat turkey basted in the oven, we watched the Macy's parade on television. I was pleased, but mostly blown away, to see Arlo Guthrie on one of the approved floats, singing "This Land Is Your Land."

First, Arlo is an icon of the counterculture, and has been since the turbulent 1960's. This folksinger has worked for social justice and fought the fascistic excesses of the right-wing establishment for almost half a century. His whole life has been a finger in the eye to the Establishment, and to the corporate culture. He was one of those long-haired hippies so reviled by the war hawks, and was so known for his vociferous anti-war policies that he was an enemy of The Man.

And on one of the most excessive displays of corporate culture and commercialism, he sings a communist song made famous by his father, Woody Guthrie. "This Land" is about true democracy, where the land belongs to all the people, not just the rich and privileged. Woody sang about the common people, the ones who really made this country great. He sang all over the land with a guitar sporting the slogan "This machine kills Fascists." (One of his torchbearers, the wonderful Pete Seegar, has adopted a kinder, gentler slogan for his instrument-- "This machine surrounds Hate and forces it to surrender.") If only we had more like them.

So Arlo the anti-corporate icon headlined in a parade sponsored by and dedicated to, corporate industry. Simply head-shaking, ironic, and unbelievingly subversive. And I'll bet that in this modern clueless culture that most of the people watching had no idea of why this was special.

To highlight it, at noon today, we listened to a broadcast of Arlo singing his iconic Thansgiving song, "Alice's Restaurant." This remains one of our Thanksgiving Day rituals, much more important than watching football. The whole story spins out again, never losing it's charm, and we weave the past into our present lives.

To us, the work of the singing Guthrie family and others like them is much more than a turkey leg and a song. They worked hard to bring about a world without desperate want, a world where everyone would be able to spend the day in joy and peace, not trying to kill each other. A world where people could be free and unafraid. Nobody is shooting at us today. We wish it were so for all the world.

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