The Austin Chronicle

Robert Jensen Cancels Thanksgiving

By Wells Dunbar, November 21, 2006, 2:55pm, Newsdesk

By way of Scott Henson, we see the little culture warriors over at the heretofore unheard-of Dallas Blog are making hay over a year-old essay from UT professor Robert Jensen where the reactionary lefty calls for fasting and atonement in lieu of Thanksgiving. We're reminded of Stephen Colbert, who, lamenting the commercialization of the holidays, said it seems like the War on Christmas starts earlier every year.

We agree with Henson that sometimes, Jensen sounds like he's angling for a fight, for provocation. What else can you make of a lede graf like this:

One indication of moral progress in the United States would be the replacement of Thanksgiving Day and its self-indulgent family feasting with a National Day of Atonement accompanied by a self-reflective collective fasting.

But as Henson also notes, one of Jensen's roles (and arguably, the role of professors everywhere) is to expand the parameters of debate, a role Jensen admirably inhabits. (Unless the debate is over porn – here again, Jensen is quite the provocateur, albeit one with an Andrea Dworkin-esque sensibility at work. During his graphic, clinical descriptions of outre, gonzo-porn practices, one can feel him get off on the moral revulsion he seeks to inspire. But that's a whooooole 'nother post.)

And when he's on, he's on. This passage is especially damning:

"Thomas Jefferson -- president #3 and author of the Declaration of Independence, which refers to Indians as the "merciless Indian Savages" -- was known to romanticize Indians and their culture, but that didn't stop him in 1807 from writing to his secretary of war that in a coming conflict with certain tribes, "[W]e shall destroy all of them."

As the genocide was winding down in the early 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt (president #26) defended the expansion of whites across the continent as an inevitable process "due solely to the power of the mighty civilized races which have not lost the fighting instinct, and which by their expansion are gradually bringing peace into the red wastes where the barbarian peoples of the world hold sway."

Roosevelt also once said, "I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn't like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth."

Of course, the prevailing winds in the Dallas Blog comments section are as narrow minded as they are predictable. Lord forbid they ever see his words in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. They may decry Jensen, but honestly – what is he if not a lightning rod for controversy?

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