Thanksgiving Prayer

Happy Thanksgiving

William S Burroughs is about as American as you can get.  He was the grandson of the inventor of the adding machine (yes, that Burroughs) and an heir to that family’s fortune.  He turned from a life of corporate leadership to one of rebellion and creativity. He did live overseas when he was young (London, Paris, Tangier, Mexico City) but spent most of his years here and chose Lawrence, Kansas as his home in old age.  He adored guns and even used them in his artwork.  Also he shot his wife in the head drunkenly playing William Tell.  Fortunately for him this was in Mexico City so a good lawyer got him off.  He was a humorist of the darkest kind.  He was a Beatnik who looked like an accountant.
I’ve read almost everything he wrote and published and have recordings of his readings.  Some of you have told me I am too altruistic and see the world through rose-colored glasses.  I do have such a side which is how I have maintained a commitment to what in Judaism we call Tiqqun Olam (Fixing The World).  I also have a dark side having seen something of the evils I want to fix. I am in tune with dark satirists like Jonathan Swift, Kurt Vonnegut, Christipher Buckley, Lenny Bruce, and, of course, Mark Twain.  I am a child of the sixties but my mind and heart are much closer to the Beats than the Hippies.  In a sense I am the complete Tao being both the light Yang and the dark Yin each with a speck of the other color within.
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Love of country, like love of a person, should not be conditional.  As Shakespeare put it, “Love is not love when it alteration finds.” (Sonnet 116).  Or as Elie Wiesel put it,

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

It is safe to say Burroughs was not indifferent and neither am I.  Flag-waving is not necessarily love, especially if it tolerates no criticism or recognition of error or flaw in our nation.  I dislike much about the TEA Party but recognize and applaud the lack of indifference there.  Protest is as American as apple pie and motherhood.  Picket signs in Ferguson MO say, “This is what democracy looks like.”  I think protest of injustice is what love of country looks like.  The worst thing about American politics is not in those who stand up for their vision of America but in those who do not.  The worse harbinger of the future of America is not any political philosophy or party but that half of eligible voters do not vote.

William Burroughs’ “Thanksgiving Prayer” is satire.  Being satire some will laugh out loud and others will cringe or perhaps become angry.  If you know in advance that making fun of national symbols and patriotic rhetoric is offensive you probably should not open the link below.  If you can laugh at yourself, if you love our country despite its shortcomings, then, by all means, open it.

Happy Thanksgiving

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