(From Thanksgiving 2020)
On this Thanksgiving, a most unique and yes strange Thanksgiving-it is a time to be thankful. Especially thankful, remember that all who we are, all of what we are thankful for can easily disappear. People who you rely on, people who you love, businesses you’ve known your entire life, traditions your used to, the very home you call home-in a moments notice, with one act of carelessness, selfishness can all be gone.
On this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for our country, my life, for my family, my friends and for the incredible things that I get to do for work. On this Thanksgiving I’m reminded of the very first Thanksgiving. Much like today, then we weren’t a nation more than a collection of individuals. Opinions. We worked together. We found common ground, a common purpose. A north star. People of diverse backgrounds came together to be thankful to be sitting at one table, together, in peace.
I love this period of time in American history, not for the atrocities but for the connectedness, the tender togetherness, people who look nothing alike buying into these ideals that are only American, ideals given to us by the French, now shared by most of the world.
On this Thanksgiving I’m reminded of the last film I saw in New York City before the pandemic; First Cow.
It was March 9th, it was rainy. On the cold side. I had the day off, something I’m not used to. It was in the height of, ‘what the fuck is going on with this virus’ time. No one quite knew, but everyone had a feeling. I did. It felt like a storm coming. Like a rain cloud encroaching. What would the rain feel like? Would it be ok?
I took the train as I always did, up this time, usually I see films either 34th St or midtown. Today I wanted to go up to Lincoln center. I wanted to see First Cow. I was very excited to see this film. Tomorrow I had a rehearsal for a play I was to begin and the day after I had my first table read for another new project I was heading into. But on that day, it was all about the rain and the film from my favorite people at A24. So I took my train, I got my coffee and I headed in, to go on a ride.
The film looks at the gentle friendships brutal terrain and harsh realities of the time of the California gold rush. People from all over the world came here, traveled west and searched to make his fortune. What’s striking immediately about the film is how diverse the population already is, with people from Russia Asia France and Britain all there mining for gold. Sound familiar?
There are natives among the mix as well, wearing their incredible native wardrobe and traditional pieces. This America, the adolescent America - still very much a diverse, competitive land. It always was, and always has been-from the first settlers. The natives had their own ways, traditions and practices. They had their history. This was their land after all. They didn’t look down or up at the British or organized forces. They were ‘friends’- they were partners. There was a mutual give and take that I think we today don’t appreciate as much as we should. Because surely the natives did not enjoy what they were being put through, in spite of it chiefs recognized the opportunity to better their peoples lives, something that I am still disappointed in my own government for not living up to for these last 244 years.
But putting grievances aside, what stays with you when you watch the film is the gentle interconnectedness of the time. Everything is in a gentle balance still. This still exists today, but this balance inherent in Native culture and of this land has just been raped and exploited for quite literally all she has to offer. Now is the time to find a better way. While we are all collectively down in the dumps we should use a film like First Cow to show us the detail of what we may take for granted today or aren’t sensitive enough to. I can’t imagine how it must feel to be of native heritage on this continent. Surely a mix and so much conflict within. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for an African American to watch yet another story of yet another person of their own heritage being depicted in a stereotypical way. I can’t imagine how tried you are and sick to death of it. The act of slavery was the most inhumane destructive thing we have ever done in our name, as a country. And we’ve done a lot of inhumane and destructive things. History can be a great burden or a great hand if you allow it to teach you and lift you up from the mistakes of yesterday. We should collectively decide to move on, to higher ground-so that we can find common ground.
First Cow is just so beautifully done. They purposefully include long boring shots because they want you to get a sense of time in the world in which we are, with the film. There was no pulling phones out to waste a moment of anxiety, no early exits because of text messages-back in those days you endured. Because you had to. You had to just be. Be a full human. You couldn’t run into your rabbit hole to feel better about yourself. You endured whatever you set your mind to. Whatever the world hurled upon you. If a long ship was passing by there wasn’t GPS to tell you how to get around it, you sat, and you waited for it to pass-and in so doing you saw it’s size, it’s color maybe heard it’s sound. You appreciated its beauty. Today, in our rabbit holes We lose a lot of beauty in our rush to do everything fast instead of well. To judge.
All of us have just had to endure the most trying 4 years of almost any American generation since WW2. Today, if not everyday, I hope that we can force ourselves to be more present, breach the walls of our rabbit holes and connect with people. Share. Talk. Remember. First Cow teaches all of us that all of us can work together. Today, Thanksgiving, reminds us what kind of country we can be if we choose to work together and not against one another.