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Happy Thanksgiving: Or Why it’s Never Too Late to Brush Up on Your History

October 12, 2010

I like Thanksgiving. I like turkey, and mashed potatoes, and gravy. I like gathering around with my family and eating some sort of pie. What I don’t like however is what Thanksgiving actually celebrates. You know, the genocide of an entire people. Columbus day is on the 12th of October, and in Canada we always celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October. Thanksgiving. Columbus. Turkey. Mass murder. And colonisation. It’s all wrapped up into this one day where we give thanks to a people who helped our ancestors survive the winter here by showing us which foods to harvest and whatnot.

The part that is often left out of history books is that we then proceeded to rape, kill and otherwise physically  and emotionally maim the natives of this fine country we now call our own. Columbus set the whole thing in motion when he “discovered” the Americas, and yet we still celebrate the dude like a hero. Spurred on by the absurdity of it all a lot of people are supporting the Reconsider Columbus Day campaign for change. There’s even a video:

Please visit website to sign petition

I think that if you want to be a socially responsible person it’s important to educate yourself, and realize that the history we learned in school was biased to say the least. A book like Lies My History Teacher Told Me is a great place to start, but if you are looking for a primer, a kick in the pants. Something to blow your mind. If you’re looking for new heroes, Firebrands is the book for you.

Firebrand: 1. A piece of burning wood. 2. A person with a penchant for militancy in speech or/in action. 3. A person who changes lives.

Hell fucking yes, if there were ever an antidote to Columbus day this is it. Firebrands: Portraits From the Americas, gives you an elementary profile of 78 people who have “thrown [themselves] into the tremendously hard and beautiful project of being free.”

Here you will read the stories of people who lived incredible lives; live that were much more full, much more alive than most people’s. They tried harder. They took more risks. They were less afraid. They put overwhelming value in joy and love. The felt pulled to try and end the suffering of fellow human beings. They refused to just “get by” and demanded to dream of new and more beautiful ways of life. It’s fore these reasons – and not wealth, power, or status – that people should be honored and admired.

These great people also made  quite a bit of trouble, and often paid a serious price for their ideas, their values, and their actions.We should never forget that these people were either ridiculed, hated, jailed, or at war, or on the run, or executed…or all of the above.

You should ask yourself, under what circumstances would you take these kinds of risks?

And that’s just from the four page introduction. I was excited when I started reading Firebrands. I felt happy to be alive, to have shared or to be sharing a world with these people and people like them. I felt and still feel inspired to always ask myself what values and ideals are important enough for me to take these kinds of risks and to always try my best to live up to them.

I like this book, it feels good in my hands, it makes me smile and I love the artwork that accompagnies each profile, but if you can’t afford the 8$ here’s a list of (78) people you should google.

Muhammed Ali. Tupac Amaru II. Gloria Anzaldua. Kuwasi Balagoon. Judy Bari. Rafael Barrett. Domitila Barrios de Chungara. Grace Lee Boggs. Simon Bolivar. John Brown. Sitting Bull. Luisa Capetillo. Rachel Carson. Bartolome de las Casas. Elizabeth Catlett. Roberto Clemente. Carlos Cortez. Roque Dalton. Justin Dart, Jr. Angela Y. Davis. Dorothy Day. Voltairine De Cleyre. Eugene V. Debs. W.E.B. Dubois. Frantz Fanon. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Ursula Franklin. Paulo Freire. Buckminster Fuller. Geronimo. Emma Goldman. Tooker Gromberg. Albert “Ginger” Goodwin. Angelina & Sarah Grimke. Woody Guthrie. Fred Hampton. Hatuey. Big Bill Haywood. C.L.R. James. Frida Kahlo. Helen Keller. Florynce Kennedy. Yuri Kochiyama. Toussaint L’Ouverture. Lili’uokalani. Audre Lorde. Ricardo Flores Magnon. Jose Marti. Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez. Rigoberta Menchu. Chico Mendes. Alicia Moreau de Justo. Henry Morgentaler. Harrier Nahanee. Nanny of the Maroons. Pablo Neruda. Grace Paley. Po’pay. Comandante Romona. Louis Riel. Marlon Riggs. Sylvia Rivera. Raul Robeson. Walter Rodney. Sacco & Vanzetti. Augusto Cesar Sandino. Assata Shakur. Tupac Shakur. Nina Simone. Arlen Siu. Studs Terkel. James Tiptree, Jr. Sojourner Truth. Denmark Vessey. Rodolfo Walsh. Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Emiliano Zapata. Zumbi dos Palmares.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 12, 2010 11:24 pm

    Thanks for this one, I had heard about Columbus Day but did not notice there is the same colonization issue with Thanksgiving…

  2. October 14, 2010 6:35 am

    Awesome, I just got a copy of Firebrands in my mail yesterday! I would also recommend Inga Muscio’s “Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil,” especially since I know you were inspired by her “Cunt.”

  3. October 14, 2010 10:36 am

    Awesome! You got “Firebrands” in the mail yesterday, so timely.

    I’m about half-way through “Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil”. For some reason, I’m not liking it as much as “Cunt”. I haven’t quite pin-pointed why though. Maybe it’s the tone. Not sure. Not that it’s bad, I’m just not as excited by it as I was initially.

    When I started reading “Firebrands” I started thinking about creating a blog around the same idea and making a list of all around awesome people that are contributing to this world in a positive way (even if they’re not famous).

  4. February 24, 2011 4:32 pm

    gracias brother!

  5. Kathleen permalink
    March 18, 2011 3:37 pm

    Here in America, Thanksgiving is in late November (25th) and it commemorates the first feast of the Pilgrims.

    The Pilgrims did not know how to manage the foreign terrain and so they starved for many months. A few nearby Native American tribes saw their suffering, and Squanto (the cheif of the Wampoanoag tribe) was led to them by an Abnaki Native American. Squanto decided that his tribe would bring enough food to feed 58 pilgrims and 90 Native Americans for three days. Thanksgiving in America is about being grateful for the generosity of the Native Americans. I have been read the story of the Trail of Tears to on Thanksgiving many times, so that the Native Americans would not only be commemorated, but so that we may also remember the responsibility we bear for the vastness of their disappearance.

  6. Kathleen permalink
    March 18, 2011 3:53 pm

    Also, Columbus did not discover the U.S. area, nor Canada. He was looking for India and ended up in the Bahamas. He was a moron.
    The Americas (both continents) were no secret to Europe. Scandinavian Vikings, Spanish Pirates, and Leif Ericson all discovered North America before Christopher Columbus did.
    So, Columbus isn’t to blame at all for the genocide of the Native Americans in your area.
    He was just some dumb guy who thought he was going to be the first to trade with India.
    We probably shouldn’t celebrate someone this stupid, but it’s not exactly immoral.

    The only people responsible for what happened to the Native Americans are the people who actually did the raping and the killing . That would be the later pilgrims and the colonists of the 1700s, and then Americans and Canadians for all the centuries afterward up to now.

    Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to educate oneself about the horrible things that happened to the Native Americans, but to also do the one thing that people who celebrate the holiday these days continue to neglect: how thankful we should be now for their kindness and generosity, for which without our ancestoral lines may not have persued.

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