Words of Gratitude

Given the so-called change said to be coming to the BananaRepublic, it may be seen as cynical to recall this Thanksgiving Prayer, first offered 20 years ago this week and dedicated to John Dillinger. But Uncle Bill‘s words of gratitude have a certain je ne sais quoi … the ring of truth maybe? Listen or, if you prefer, watch and listen, and decide for yourself.

Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts —

thanks for a Continent to despoil
and poison —

thanks for Indians to provide a
modicum of challenge and
danger —

thanks for vast herds of bison to
kill and skin leaving the
carcasses to rot —

thanks for bounties on wolves
and coyotes —

thanks for the AMERICAN DREAM
to vulgarize and to falsify until
the bare lies shine through —

thanks for the KKK,
for nigger-killin’ lawmen,
feelin’ their notches,
for decent church-goin’ women,
with their mean, pinched, bitter,
evil faces —

thanks for “Kill a Queer for
Christ” stickers —

thanks for laboratory AIDS —

thanks for Prohibition and the
War against Drugs —

thanks for a country where
nobody’s allowed to mind his
own business —

thanks for a nation of finks — yes,

thanks for all the
memories … all right let’s see
your arms …
you always were a headache and
you always were a bore —

thanks for the last and greatest
betrayal of the last and greatest
of human dreams.

© 1986 by William S. Burroughs

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  1. says

    Just goes to show that there is no heaven on earth — every piece of gold comes with a piece of shit atttached — nothing or no-one is perfect. Old Bill should be thankful that he came from such a privileged American family, which allowed him easy access to one of the best universities in the world. He should be thankful that he did not have to work — he was on a pension for life. He should be thankful that as a privileged American he was allowed, as was Bush, to do anything he wanted and get away with it. Old Bill could shoot and kill his wife — no problem. He could be a public junkie and not get busted — yet all those Hispanics just across the Bowery from his Bunker were getting 20 years and more in jail for drugs (Allen Boys — one block away). Old Bill could publicly talk about shooting his guns and have his guns in his Bowery Bunker — yet, again, different from his Hispanics neighbors. Old Bill, similar to Duchamp, who could take an upside down urinal write R. Mutt on it and be called a genius — Old Bill could cut up books, glue the different parts back together and be called a genius. Who else but a man of privilege could get public recognition for these anti-social acts and then be called a genius? Not to say that I disapprove of Old Bill and Duchamp’s anarchistic antics — I do think that they are inspired acts from men of privilege, and Bush really is an idiot — but give me a break on Thanksgiving Old Bill (RIP — I’m talking to OB’s ghost here) — shoot your guns — do your drugs — cut up your books — BUT eat your turkey and shut the fuck up —
    BTW — in the early 80’s when OB was living on his fame, the Allen Boys were going to jail — some of the Allen Boys are still, even now, just getting out of jail. OB has much to give thanks for. He was from the ruling class. He lived his life as he wanted — that’s what freedom is all about — he was a free man — he lived by his choices — be happy.
    Happy Everything — to everybody
    Clayton Patterson

  2. Jan Herman says

    This message came from a Burroughs fan who prefers to remain nameless:
    Well, on one hand, Clayton Patterson certainly has a point. On the other hand, he buys into some notion of “authenticity” — as though poverty were ennobling, or as though street culture sharpens the accuracy of one’s criticisms. Clearly it doesn’t, or more Bowery Boys would be writing for extremist journals. Just because WSB came from privilege doesn’t mean he wasn’t an accurate critic of privilege. Takes one to know one.
    WSB had the pension till he was 50 or so, if I’m not mistaken. At that point it was replaced by meager book royalties. His finances after 1970 or so were none too stable. He sold his archive to get the money to move back to America. Sometimes in later years he had to borrow a few grand from Kansas friends. The only thing that ever really made money were those crappy paintings he did.

  3. Clayton Patterson says

    Yes myths are hard to shake: for example, Bill and his money. But my comments had nothing to do with authenticity. There is no question, in my mind, that the Allen Boys had authenticity. The kind of authenticity that Bill Burroughs admired, respected, wrote about, and complemented himself by suggesting that he was related to their world.
    My comments were related to privilege. My point is that one has to be in the circle of privilege, or connected to that privilege, to be recognized for an achievement that breaks the mold. Take, for example, Jackson Pollock If he had done his drip paintings anywhere other than where he was, with the people he was associated with, does anyone think that he would have been discovered? In my view, no. Do I think that there are other creative people who have done great things, but were not connected to privilege, which caused them to be overlooked? In my opinion, yes. From my perspective four people that I work to try and get recognized: Boris Lurie, Jim “Mosaicman” Power, Nelson Sullivan, and LA2 Angel Ortiz. To me these guys are authentic. They broke the mold and made a serious contribution that still has not been recognized by persons of privilege. Just the way it is.
    Clayton Patterson