11.22.2011

Occupy Plymouth: Thanksgiving, American Mythology & The Suppressed Speech Of Wamsutta Frank James

America is short on memory. However, for its relatively young age, it has an abundance of mythology. Paul Bunyan, John Henry, Johnny Appleseed -- these all reside in a place somewhere between myth and reality for many Americans.

George Washington chopping down the apple tree, Ben Franklin and the kite, Paul Revere 'ringing those bells and making sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells.' We don't often know what really happened, or if it really happened -- and to many, it seems it doesn't really seem to matter.

As Americans, we tend to roll the opening credits sometime around that day on Plymouth Rock, circa 1621. Just as we often don't appreciate the vast history of our planet before human beings evolved, we often don't appreciate the history of  American soil prior to its colonization by European settlers.

Pundits argue over whether or not America has always been a Christian nation, or whether our Founding Fathers would have wanted it this way or that way. It's easy to forget that there was a time and a place, and a people, before we came along and made such a racket.

Most Americans will go about their Thanksgiving in the usual way: sitting around the table with relatives, eating too much, watching football, and giving thanks. Many of us will be surrounded by children's art, decorations, and TV ads which retain the mythical notions that pilgrims wore buckled shoes and hats (they didn't), and that they feasted on turkey and corn (no corn, and likely deer) with the Native Americans in a bountiful and peaceable celebration (it wasn't).

While mythical narratives certainly serve a purpose, often that purpose is to re-write history, to bury guilt, to fashion a burden that we can bear, and to fashion a story we can bear to tell our descendants.

While I will be doing what most Americans do on Thanksgiving: gorging myself on turkey, drinking spirits, and reflecting on life's blessings with my family, I'll do it with the somber understanding that this comes at great cost.

I have made it part of my yearly personal Thanksgiving ritual to read the suppressed speech of Wamsutta (Frank B.) James, Wampanoag, which was to be delivered at a public Thanksgiving event sponsored by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Plymouth, MA in 1970, until planners decided that what James had written wasn't exactly what they wanted the people to hear.

It's important that we not be afraid to look reality head-on. While we may not be able to reverse history, and while each of us have done no direct injustices, we don't gain anything by turning away. As Wamsutta Frank James stated, "What has happened cannot be changed, but today we must work towards a more humane America, a more Indian America, where men and nature once again are important; where the Indian values of honor, truth, and brotherhood prevail."

While most of America will likely spend at least some of their Thanksgiving discussing the Occupy Wall Street movement (certainly to be an interesting dinner conversation this year at multi-generational, partisan gatherings), it wouldn't hurt us to reflect on the original American occupation for perspective. As we discuss the pepper-spraying of college students, we could do worse than to reflect on much greater injustices that were inflicted on an entire people who had done nothing wrong.

Wamsutta Frank James' speech below, and the accompanying introduction, can be found at UAINE (United American Indians of New England):
Three hundred fifty years after the Pilgrims began their invasion of the land of the Wampanoag, their "American" descendants planned an anniversary celebration. Still clinging to the white schoolbook myth of friendly relations between their forefathers and the Wampanoag, the anniversary planners thought it would be nice to have an Indian make an appreciative and complimentary speech at their state dinner. Frank James was asked to speak at the celebration. He accepted. The planners, however , asked to see his speech in advance of the occasion, and it turned out that Frank James' views — based on history rather than mythology — were not what the Pilgrims' descendants wanted to hear. Frank James refused to deliver a speech written by a public relations person. Frank James did not speak at the anniversary celebration. If he had spoken, this is what he would have said: 
Wamsutta Frank James
I speak to you as a man -- a Wampanoag Man. I am a proud man, proud of my ancestry, my accomplishments won by a strict parental direction ("You must succeed - your face is a different color in this small Cape Cod community!"). I am a product of poverty and discrimination from these two social and economic diseases. I, and my brothers and sisters, have painfully overcome, and to some extent we have earned the respect of our community. We are Indians first - but we are termed "good citizens." Sometimes we are arrogant but only because society has pressured us to be so.

It is with mixed emotion that I stand here to share my thoughts. This is a time of celebration for you - celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time of looking back, of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People.

Even before the Pilgrims landed it was common practice for explorers to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them as slaves for 220 shillings apiece. The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans. Mourt's Relation describes a searching party of sixteen men. Mourt goes on to say that this party took as much of the Indians' winter provisions as they were able to carry.

Massasoit, the great Sachem of the Wampanoag, knew these facts, yet he and his People welcomed and befriended the settlers of the Plymouth Plantation. Perhaps he did this because his Tribe had been depleted by an epidemic. Or his knowledge of the harsh oncoming winter was the reason for his peaceful acceptance of these acts. This action by Massasoit was perhaps our biggest mistake. We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people.

What happened in those short 50 years? What has happened in the last 300 years? History gives us facts and there were atrocities; there were broken promises - and most of these centered around land ownership. Among ourselves we understood that there were boundaries, but never before had we had to deal with fences and stone walls. But the white man had a need to prove his worth by the amount of land that he owned. Only ten years later, when the Puritans came, they treated the Wampanoag with even less kindness in converting the souls of the so-called "savages." Although the Puritans were harsh to members of their own society, the Indian was pressed between stone slabs and hanged as quickly as any other "witch."

And so down through the years there is record after record of Indian lands taken and, in token, reservations set up for him upon which to live. The Indian, having been stripped of his power, could only stand by and watch while the white man took his land and used it for his personal gain. This the Indian could not understand; for to him, land was survival, to farm, to hunt, to be enjoyed. It was not to be abused. We see incident after incident, where the white man sought to tame the "savage" and convert him to the Christian ways of life. The early Pilgrim settlers led the Indian to believe that if he did not behave, they would dig up the ground and unleash the great epidemic again.

The white man used the Indian's nautical skills and abilities. They let him be only a seaman -- but never a captain. Time and time again, in the white man's society, we Indians have been termed "low man on the totem pole."

Has the Wampanoag really disappeared? There is still an aura of mystery. We know there was an epidemic that took many Indian lives - some Wampanoags moved west and joined the Cherokee and Cheyenne. They were forced to move. Some even went north to Canada! Many Wampanoag put aside their Indian heritage and accepted the white man's way for their own survival. There are some Wampanoag who do not wish it known they are Indian for social or economic reasons.

What happened to those Wampanoags who chose to remain and live among the early settlers? What kind of existence did they live as "civilized" people? True, living was not as complex as life today, but they dealt with the confusion and the change. Honesty, trust, concern, pride, and politics wove themselves in and out of their [the Wampanoags'] daily living. Hence, he was termed crafty, cunning, rapacious, and dirty.

History wants us to believe that the Indian was a savage, illiterate, uncivilized animal. A history that was written by an organized, disciplined people, to expose us as an unorganized and undisciplined entity. Two distinctly different cultures met. One thought they must control life; the other believed life was to be enjoyed, because nature decreed it. Let us remember, the Indian is and was just as human as the white man. The Indian feels pain, gets hurt, and becomes defensive, has dreams, bears tragedy and failure, suffers from loneliness, needs to cry as well as laugh. He, too, is often misunderstood.

The white man in the presence of the Indian is still mystified by his uncanny ability to make him feel uncomfortable. This may be the image the white man has created of the Indian; his "savageness" has boomeranged and isn't a mystery; it is fear; fear of the Indian's temperament!

High on a hill, overlooking the famed Plymouth Rock, stands the statue of our great Sachem, Massasoit. Massasoit has stood there many years in silence. We the descendants of this great Sachem have been a silent people. The necessity of making a living in this materialistic society of the white man caused us to be silent. Today, I and many of my people are choosing to face the truth. We ARE Indians!

Although time has drained our culture, and our language is almost extinct, we the Wampanoags still walk the lands of Massachusetts. We may be fragmented, we may be confused. Many years have passed since we have been a people together. Our lands were invaded. We fought as hard to keep our land as you the whites did to take our land away from us. We were conquered, we became the American prisoners of war in many cases, and wards of the United States Government, until only recently.

Our spirit refuses to die. Yesterday we walked the woodland paths and sandy trails. Today we must walk the macadam highways and roads. We are uniting We're standing not in our wigwams but in your concrete tent. We stand tall and proud, and before too many moons pass we'll right the wrongs we have allowed to happen to us.

We forfeited our country. Our lands have fallen into the hands of the aggressor. We have allowed the white man to keep us on our knees. What has happened cannot be changed, but today we must work towards a more humane America, a more Indian America, where men and nature once again are important; where the Indian values of honor, truth, and brotherhood prevail.

You the white man are celebrating an anniversary. We the Wampanoags will help you celebrate in the concept of a beginning. It was the beginning of a new life for the Pilgrims. Now, 350 years later it is a beginning of a new determination for the original American: the American Indian.

There are some factors concerning the Wampanoags and other Indians across this vast nation. We now have 350 years of experience living amongst the white man. We can now speak his language. We can now think as a white man thinks. We can now compete with him for the top jobs. We're being heard; we are now being listened to. The important point is that along with these necessities of everyday living, we still have the spirit, we still have the unique culture, we still have the will and, most important of all, the determination to remain as Indians. We are determined, and our presence here this evening is living testimony that this is only the beginning of the American Indian, particularly the Wampanoag, to regain the position in this country that is rightfully ours.

Wamsutta

September 10, 1970




Bianca's Story: 'God Is Going To Punish You For Being Gay'

Bianca is what she describes as a triple threat: Latina, queer, and a woman. She is an activist, an artist, and does theater in LA. She is also co-founder of Legalize Love, "an organization that empowers the oppressed through critical pedagogy."

One might think that such a strong, energetic, creative, and self-assured individual would be the product of a compassionate and supportive family. And while that is partially true (Bianca's brothers have always been supportive, and call her a hero), Bianca's journey was anything but smooth, and she almost didn't live to tell her story.

As part of an ongoing series of videos (below), An Honest Conversation, Bianca relates her story, one that she says is not so different from other LGBT Latinos.

"My grandmother won't talk to me. She comes from El Salvador. Religion, for her, was a survival...that's how she got by. But she's using God in a way to hurt me. She openly says she's ashamed. She says, 'God is going to punish you for being gay.' She even told me once I would end up with AIDS."

"Whether you go to church every Sunday or not, it's part of the culture in a way. A lot of the Latinos in LA -- they're first generation, so they come from places where religion plays a huge role."

At a post at Cuentame, Bianca states:
Now, I come from a very conservative family, I mean I went to catholic school from the age of 4 up to 11 so I completely understand how religion and the Latin culture can keep someone in the closet for fear of losing their families...my dad doesn’t fully accept me. I mean he says he’s going to love me regardless, but the fact of the matter is he doesn’t.

He still thinks I’m going to grow out of it, and refuses to meet my girlfriend, not to mention no one from the family is to know about my choice, and lastly he refuses to talk about it. I mean who is he to judge me, he cheated on my mom and broke a marriage, however he is an out and proud republican who believes gays should not have the right to marry because it breaks the sanctity of marriage, ironic right? Parents please don’t cause that pain to your kids, what you think of them, means more to them than you may think. They need you because we live in a tough world, and if you don’t fight for them, well who will?

I know it may be hard for you, but remember (especially you moms) you gave birth to them, and when you first held them you loved them for being your child, and being queer is nothing more than being a boy or a girl, it’s who they are and it can not be changed.
Her story is unfortunately too familiar. But thankfully, as more and more young people like Bianca open up and share their stories, we can erase the shame that is brought on by religion-based bigotry, culture, and ignorance.
As I set out to help others, I really ended up helping myself. There are too many kids out there taking their lives and self-injuring because they feel like they are sinning and enough is enough! We all need to come together and speak up for them because if we don’t, who will, you know? In Lakesh, which is Mayan and means, you are my other self.

The reason why I bring this up is because has corny as it may seem we are all connected, and that is why I decided to be in the series, because I hope that my struggle can open hearts and perhaps prevent someone from being shunned, bullied, or perhaps even beaten. We are all each others keepers, and once we beginning practicing what is truly preached in the churches, we can start to move forward as a whole, and stop this taboo of queer being wrong. I understand that many latino families have their beliefs, but we can not allow for our beliefs to break our families or to take lives.









Why Not? Evolution, Videos & Rockstar Scientists

The below guest post was written by Matt Shipman, a science writer and father of three who lives in Raleigh. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @ShipLives or connect with him here on Google+. 


Evolution shouldn’t be controversial. But, in some circles, it is.

That point was driven home earlier this year via, of all things, the Miss USA competition. This year’s competitors were asked whether they thought evolution should be taught in schools. The majority of them either said no, or that creationism should receive equal time in the science curriculum.

Many girls look up to young women like the Miss USA contestants. So when these role models overwhelmingly speak out against evolution education, that’s a problem.

Normally, I would have shaken my head and moved on. But I made the mistake of posting a flippant remark on Twitter. Something to the effect of: “Someone should do something to respond.” I got called on it.

An acquaintance of mine named Dave Wescott agreed that someone should respond. Then he said that someone should be us. I saw my future free time evaporating.

Within hours we had found a small group of scientists and science communicators who were also interested in being involved. Ultimately, there were me and Dave (P.R. guys), Kevin Zelnio, Jamie Vernon and Andrea Kuszewski (scientist/science communicators). We came up with the idea of creating a video, featuring scientists, which would explain evolution and why it is important to teach evolution in schools. We wanted to avoid divisive behavior and name-calling. Instead, we thought we could convey the fact that evolution is an amazing, uplifting discovery that has served as the genesis of countless advances in many fields of science.

Then someone, I think it was Jamie, suggested that we focus exclusively on female scientists. This was a great idea. In addition to talking about evolution, we could highlight positive role models, showing that women can be scientists and researchers, as well as beauty queens.

We contacted tons of great researchers from around the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Most of them turned us down. They’d never heard of us and, after all, they were all successful scientists (which is why we contacted them). But some of them – amazingly – said they’d participate.

After months of collecting video and editing, here it is. It’s the product of a small group of people, working on their personal time, with a budget of zero dollars. It wouldn’t work at all without the videos submitted by brilliant, generous and well-spoken scientists in fields ranging from genetics to anthropology to marine biology.

It’s not perfect, but we did something good here. We did not just roll our eyes.

It’s a good reminder that creative responses to challenging problems don’t come from other people. They come from you, when you stop making excuses and decide to actually do something positive.

So check the video out. And pass it on.






11.21.2011

Thanksgiving Terrorism: Halal Turkey!

Thanksgiving can be a stressful holiday for many. There's all the traveling, the cooking, and those awkward conversations with ideologically incompatible relatives.

As if this wasn't enough, conservative blogger Pamela Geller has issued a warning: Eating turkey may turn you into a Muslim.

America needs to wake up from their tryptophan-induced slumber, stop worrying about their creeping waistline, and start worrying about creeping Sharia.

Writing in American Thinker, Geller writes:
Did you know that the turkey you're going to enjoy on Thanksgiving Day this Thursday is probably halal? If it's a Butterball turkey, then it certainly is -- whether you like it or not. 
In my book Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance, I report at length on the meat industry's halal scandal: its established practice of not separating halal meat from non-halal meat, and not labeling halal meat as such. And back in October 2010, I reported more little-noted but explosive new revelations: that much of the meat in Europe and the United States is being processed as halal without the knowledge of the non-Muslim consumers who buy it.

For those who are unfamiliar with the word "halal," it is a term designating that a particular food (or object, action, etc.) is seen as permissible under Islamic law.

Whether you like it or not, Butterball has issued a fatwa on your fat ass.

Geller continues her holiday horror story:

A citizen activist and reader of my website AtlasShrugs.com wrote to Butterball, one of the most popular producers of Thanksgiving turkeys in the United States, asking them if their turkeys were halal. Wendy Howze, a Butterball Consumer Response Representative, responded: "Our whole turkeys are certified halal."

In a little-known strike against freedom, yet again, we are being forced into consuming meat slaughtered by means of a torturous method: Islamic slaughter.

Halal slaughter involves cutting the trachea, the esophagus, and the jugular vein, and letting the blood drain out while saying "Bismillah allahu akbar" -- in the name of Allah the greatest.

This is shocking, folks. When little Tommy and Sally fight over that last drumstick, they are unwitting terrorists in training. I don't even want to think about what that wishbone is capable of doing.

Still others refuse to do so on principle: why should we be forced to conform to Islamic norms? It's Islamic supremacism on the march, yet again.

Non-Muslims in America and Europe don't deserve to have halal turkey forced upon them in this way, without their knowledge or consent. So this Thanksgiving, fight for your freedom. Find a non-halal, non-Butterball turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday. And write to Butterball and request, politely but firmly, that they stop selling only halal turkeys, and make non-halal turkeys available to Americans who still value our freedoms.

Across this great country, on Thanksgiving tables nationwide, infidel Americans are unwittingly going to be serving halal turkeys to their families this Thursday. Turkeys that are halal certified -- who wants that, especially on a day on which we are giving thanks to G-d for our freedom? I wouldn't knowingly buy a halal turkey -- would you? Halal turkey, slaughtered according to the rules of Islamic law, is just the opposite of what Thanksgiving represents: freedom and inclusiveness, neither of which are allowed for under that same Islamic law.
You got that, America? We can't let the turkey Taliban wage jihad on our day of thanks.

I mean, right?

Well, come to think of it, I have certainly eaten my share of Hebrew Nationals, and I haven't started sporting a kippah.

It's at times like these when it pays to stop for a second and think like a rational person (i.e. not Pamela Geller).

As my friend Stu said, "If you cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 165, it'll kill any Sharia that gets into it."




The GOP Thanksgiving Family Forum Debate: The Giblets

Bachmann, displaying GOP-approved gender role
On Saturday, six Republican candidates testified, wept, and proselytized in Des Moines Iowa as part of the Thanksgiving Family Forum 'debate.'

The Family Forum was billed as a "family discussion with the Republican presidential candidates." The event was sponsored by right wing organizations Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink, the National Organization for Marriage, and the Iowa based Christian conservative organization, The Family Leader.

Two candidates did not attend the forum. The Mormon guys took a pass, and understandably so. In 2008, Focus on the Family's CitizenLink pulled an interview with Glenn Beck because of his Mormon faith.

The Deseret News reported:
James Dobson's Focus on the Family ministry has pulled from its CitizenLink Web site an article about talk show host Glenn Beck's book "The Christmas Sweater" after some complained that Beck's LDS faith is a "cult" and "false religion" and shouldn't be promoted by a Christian ministry.
And so, here in America, where there is no religious test for office, the six non-Mormon candidates sought to win over the Evangelical vote by out-weeping, out-witnessing, and out-pandering the competition.

Here are some of the more memorable quotes from the event:

  • "I’ve poured a lot of water in my time." (Michele Bachmann, submitting to the female duty of pouring water for the male candidates.)
  • "Go get a job. Right after you take a bath." (Newt Gingrich, to Occupy Wall Street protesters, many of which have jobs, and many of which are protesting the lack of available jobs)
  • "It was George Washington that added those last four words, ‘So help me god.’" (Michele Bachmann, once again serving up dubious history)
  • "A country that has been now since 1963 relentlessly in the courts driving God out of public life shouldn’t be surprised at all the problems we have. Because we’ve in fact attempted to create a secular country, which I think is frankly a nightmare." (Newt Gingrich, thrice married, and the only Speaker of the House to have been disciplined for ethics violations.)
  • "Unlike Islam, where the higher law and the civil law are the same, in our case, we have civil laws. But our civil laws have to comport with the higher law." (Rick Santorum, opposing a theocracy, while calling for a theocracy)
  • "In every person's heart, in every person's soul, there is a hole that can only be filled by the Lord Jesus Christ." (Rick Perry, gunning for presidency of a country that is home to Jews, Atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, etc.)
  • "That person terrifies me because they completely misunderstand how weak and how limited any human being is." (Newt, former Speaker with eighty-four ethics charges, who cheated on his wife while she was fighting cancer, on an atheist becoming president)
  • "Probably the boldest statement since Lincoln’s first inaugural took on the Supreme Court over the Dred Scott decision." (Newt, on a paper that Newt wrote and published on Newt.org)
  • "I always wanted to be a veterinarian ... and then He introduced me to organic chemistry, and I became a pilot in the United States Air Force." (Rick Perry, clearly becoming more skilled in debates, on God's plans.)
  • "Somebody's values are going to decide what the Congress votes on or what the president of the United States in going to deal with. And the question is: Whose values? And let me tell ya, it needs to be our values -- values and virtues that this country was based upon by the Judeo-Christian Founding Fathers." (Rick Perry -- and by 'our values' he means not yours)
  • "I've been driven to my knees multiple times as the governor of the State of Texas, making decisions that are life or death -- have huge impacts on people's lives. The idea that I would walk into that without God Almighty holding me up would scare me to death." (Rick Perry, on how God helped him execute over 230 people)