WILLIAM BURROUGHS, “THANKSGIVING DAY, NOVEMBER 28, 1986”
Here we have a short film of William Burroughs, best known as the author of a body of controversial and experimental literature, reading his poem “Thanksgiving Prayer” shot by Gus Van Sant, best known as the director of films like Good Will Hunting, My Own Private Idaho, and Drugstore Cowboy, the last of which includes a memorable appearance by Burroughs himself, in which he played a defrocked priest addicted to heroin.
Burroughs, a lifelong critic of America, fills his prayer with bitterly sarcastic “thanks” for things like violence, racism, oppression, and homophobia. Thirty years after William S. Burroughs wrote it sadly it’s never been more relevant. It’s like a floodlight beaming down on everything askew in the good ol’ US of A in the present time.
For John Dillinger and hope he is still alive Thanksgiving Day, November Twenty-eighth, 1986 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 n*****-killing lawmen feeling their notches For decent church-going 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 their 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