Happy Thanksgiving to all of our American friends, family and neighbours! Along with Turkey and football games, another staple of American Thanksgiving for many is listening to the 18 minute classic, “Alice’s Restaurant.”
November has been Peace month in the School Library, with an emphasis on understanding peace education, the anti-war movements, civil disobedience and other non-violent means of social change. Such themes overlap with American Thanksgiving in “Alice’s Restaurant.”
Originally released in 1967, Arlo Guthrie’s 18 minute long recording of “Alice’s Restaurant” is a protest song against the Vietnam War. The events described in the song, beginning with a Thanksgiving celebration amongst friends during the sixties, were the inspiration for a film which was released in 1969.
More than 50 years later Guthrie’s signature song is a staple of classic rock radio stations on and around American Thanksgiving.
On this date in 1967, Muhammed Ali was arrested for refusing his conscription into the US military for the Vietnam War. Ali was the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, and arguably the most famous athlete in the world, perhaps of all time. Yet later that day he was stripped of his titles and effectively banned from boxing for more than 3 years, at the height of his athletic prowess.
Ali was already a powerful symbol for African-American Civil Rights. His decision to be a conscientious objector, refusing to be drafted for the Vietnam War, elevated his status in the US and around the world as a counter-cultural icon. He stated, “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?” (source) Ali would eventually box again, regaining his championship belts, but it is his status as a champion of peace and of human rights that make him a true hero.