11-22-12 Celebration!


So much is going on, many Americans are reeling, trying to sort it all out. What are we celebrating? It was easier when the children were young, and the world narrowed to roasted turkey and pumpkin pie. There were cutouts of jolly Pilgrims and feather-bedecked Indians, all happy but the slain deer which Wampanoag chief Massasoit brought along. In 1621 neither the new Americans nor the locals gave a thought to the ethics of hunting; they were hungry and thankful for the feast. It was a Celebration.

It’s a different world today. Well, for some of us. Hunters do not glide through forests tracking their prey to a clearing, seeking a clean shot. They drive in warm pickups, brilliant orange vests oddly out of place in the subdued landscape, passing time until a doe or buck, filled with fall passion leaps a fence straight into the crosshairs of a weapon powerful enough to destroy half the flesh the hunter claims as his own. For me, there are moments of Celebration, drawing back the drapes at dawn to witness several does with fawns run at full tilt across the creek bridge, stopping after the cabin clearing is reached to gaze at the truck bursting with orange parked, waiting, on Burma road. A moment of victory.

Short lived. A pickup glowing orange swerves back and forth on the far river bank, our front yard, really, shooting randomly to raise my deer who are also my neighboring rancher’s deer. Surrounded, pacing anxiously, I thought – how could you not? – of the Palestinians watching the massing of Israeli tanks on their border. News reports make it sound an even contest, rarely mentioning that while Israel possesses nuclear weapons, the Palestinians have no navy, no air force, no tanks, just a tight band of terrorists to defend them.

And, because it is Thanksgiving, my mind rushes on to those locals, American Indians, the First Nation, whose tight band of terrorists could ride, but couldn’t hide, and slowly, but surely, were eradicated as certainly as America’s teeming wildlife. We are at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation. It is June 1975. The reservation is under siege, the American Indian Movement, AIM, is attacking and under attack. A shootout leaves one Indian and two FBI agents dead. There is running and capture, extradition and trial, lies, recantations.  At the end of it, Leonard Peltier, the only man found guilty after the futile quest for dignity in a white man’s world, is given two life sentences. Though Nelson Mandela, Bishop Tutu, human rights activists around world, protest, Peltier is still captive.

On December 14 in New York City, our activists, old, many of them, voices from past struggles, sing out again: Bring Leonard Peltier Home. A real American Celebration.

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