We began posting this Thanksgiving Prayer by William S. Burroughs and Gus Van Sant back in 2006, and a lot of things have changed since then. The deadpan list of Bloody American Triumphs is more relevant than ever in this annus horribilis of 2017, and if Burroughs were with us today, he might look at his 1986 poem and wonder how he’d ever been such a starry-eyed optimist. For Thanksgiving 2015 we fretted because the presidential campaign featured “serious debates over registering religious minorities and bringing back torture.” Heh. We were so innocent back then, and didn’t think that guy had any chance of really getting elected.
And now here we are in Year One of the Trump Era, still trying to figure out whether That Man in the White House is an existential threat to everything we liked about America, or whether this is a temporary season of madness, after which we’ll spend entirely too long rebuilding the stuff that got smashed and covered with coal soot. Will the institutions of the ol’ American Polity survive even a Trump, or is it time to start hoarding survival supplies? Our money’s still on America feeling like America after four years, but a much crueler, fuck the poors, fuck the immigrants, fuck anyone who isn’t a Trump voter America, dominated by decent church-going people with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.
There’s a glib, pouting sociopath at the head of the parade, telling us how wonderful it all is, even as the number of people willing to believe him shrinks down to a core corps of creeps carrying torches, plus some hangers on who can’t wait to pass a tax cut, no matter what. We don’t know where the bottom of American politics is yet, but the fact that an accused child molester has a serious shot at a Senate seat seems like an indicator that we haven’t reached it yet. We aren’t quite living in Margaret Atwood’s Republic of Gilead yet. But we are living in an America that arrests little girls for having emergency surgery without papers, an America that people are fleeing as refugees.
The important thing to remember about The Handmaid’s Tale (Spoiler warning!) is that it ends with an epilogue telling us that the Republic of Gilead came to an end, and in the future future is merely a historical curiosity. After hell, things got better, so there’s your happy ending.
Burroughs might well look at 2017 and have a good rueful laugh. He told us so. We had An American Dream, and we — or at least a slim plurality of those of us who voted in just the right number of states in 2016 — picked the guy who promised to vulgarize and falsify that dream until the bare lies shone through. Just enough of us were desperate enough to believe the comforting lies about how the coal jobs will come back, the manufacturing jobs will come back, and the blacks will finally get enough Law and Order thrown at them they’ll stop insisting their lives matter. We can only assume that Burroughs would say Donald Trump is the president America has been working toward for decades. Sure, three million more of us voted for the competent but sometimes excessively private lady with the emails, but that’s not how our system works, so stop being a crybaby and suck it up. Also, show us your papers. Now we’ve got an entire political party that seems intent on finally sandblasting that pesky poem off the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. To be honest, we prefer people who aren’t tempest toss’d or wretched refuse. We like winners.
Sick of winning yet? Or just sick?
And yet. For all the morons and cheats and petty churchy bastards who’ve forgotten Jesus was quite insistent that we must care for our neighbor, who is anyone who needs our help, we can still be thankful there are people who refuse to be shouted down by the idiots who are afraid of foreigns. We can be thankful there’s no shortage of women who won’t stand for a pussy-grabber in chief. We can be thankful for schools that give EVERYBODY eat, nurses who buy up and forgive patients’ hospital debt, and a celebrity chef who fed Puerto Rico and then hired a Syrian refugee as a pastry chef. We can be thankful there are tiny babies we can guide through our big messy world with Mr. Rosewater’s one rule for living on Earth: “God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
So we’ll be thankful anyway, even if at times we can only be thankful it’s not worse than it is. We’ve got each other, there’s a highly evolved descendant of a dinosaur in the oven, and the bed is covered with the winter coats of people we love — or can at least tolerate for a few hours, although we may have to ask them to please not wear that MAGA hat to the table. If people are getting married and having babies in this crazy stupid world, then there must be hope. For all the petty small-minded terribleness and evil out there, we still have the option of laughter, because it sure as hell beats giving in to the bastards.
A happy and safe Thanksgiving to all Wonkers everywhere, and remember to Buy (almost) Nothing tomorrow.