Every year, Americans come together (symbolically) and- as a Nation- give "Thanks" to whatever Higher Authority they believe has blessed them with such good fortune as to be born an American (and if for whatever reason this feeling of genuine appreciation for having the luck of being born an American isn't swelling within you, give any international news channel a few minutes of your time... You'll be singing "God Bless America" midway through the Africa segment....). We call the day "Thanksgiving"... A day marked with football, overeating, family, and thankfulness.
But like many things in our Culture currently, Thanksgiving as been bastardized by Political Correctness (in fact, it might have been the very first thing ever to have been scared by the ham handed surgeries of the historical revisionists...), the "truth" told to as children to be behind this festive day and the true story of it's inception starkly different tales altogether; the desire to rewrite history so it better fits modern social narratives and sensitivities trumping a true education as to the reason we set aside time on the fourth Thursday in November to give thanks.
So sit back, relax... Maybe light a nice spliff for yourself... And prepare to unlearn all that you have learned as The Weekly Constitutional sets you straight on Thanksgiving.
Construction Paper Hand Turkeys & Silly Looking Buckle Hats
Before we get into what we don't know, let's cover what we do... The broader idea behind this piece being to make sure you see the lies as they are presented.
First, let's cover the fable:
Since before you could read, you knew about Thanksgiving. A day when the Pilgrims- a pack of uncomfortably dressed sexual repressives chased out of Holland and England respectively- decided to thank their uber strict Christian God for being able to survive their brutal first year in this savage new land that he had bestowed upon them. They invited their great new friends to their "Giving thanks" feast; these new friends being friendly Indians whom the Lord had put there to "save" these drably dressed prudes, thusly dispelling these rumors of savagery and godlessness by teaching the Pilgrims how to grow corn and hunt for turkey and deer.
We also know (thanks to history) that long after that fateful New England day (we can assume early fall, as it was timed to celebrate a bountiful harvest), the Americans of what the kids call "the Day" didn't really have much to do with remembering the grand American holiday of "Thanksgiving" until the Father of our great Nation, George Washington, declared the day a holiday in October, 1789. It was his first official proclamation made as President; Ol' Wooden Teeth making his landmark speech in New York City, the original capital of this Nation.
Now, as silly as you might think it, this move didn't come easy... Believe it or not, this seemingly benign Proclamation had its detractors...
I know, I know... Banish the thought! But it did... Unnamed scalawags, long forgotten by history (or at least covered up enough to keep them out of my sight) objected to the measure; finding that either the Government had no business mediating such overly public religious ceremonies better left to be done privately and with reverence by individuals on their own time or that such European styled declarations of National Observance spit in the face of everything they fought so hard to sever themselves from just a decade ago (either way, these wet blankets were having none of it).
But Washington, swinging dick that he was, proceeded with his declaration; the detractors doing little to keep the fledgling House of Representatives from ratifying his proposal the night prior.
In his speech, Washington declared the day of November 26, 1789 as an official day of "Thanksgiving and prayer", decreeing that the Nation should set aside a day for “the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be."
Seems simple enough, right? A little gratitude for the rich bounty being an American has brought (we are nothing if not confident...)... But even with Washington, using the full weight of his bully pulpit and his gravitas as he implored us to join him in his tribute to the Almighty, it took a while for the holiday to really take a firm hold on the hearts and minds of the American people; with the holiday being observed as we know it thanks to that busy body Lincoln, during the Civil War, and finally requiring an act of Congress in 1941 to make it all official (remember those days... When in order to make even things as trivial as declaring a holiday required a Congressional vote of Approval... But I digress...).
Now I know what you're asking... If the Pilgrims and Indians part of the story we are told as a kid is a syrup coated Politically Correct pile of nonsense and bullshittery (I can vouch that the Washington parts of the story are true), then what exactly is it that we are celebrating on this stupid day??? Football? Turkey? Pre-X-Mas shopping sacrifice and feasting?
There's a Bad Batch of Brown Gravy... Do Not Drop the Brown Gravy...
This brings us back to those damned Puritans who started all of this... The stiffs that they were... We already covered how their bumbling incompetence almost killed them; that first winter in this cold, savage new world a brutal and lethal one. How the Red Man, gentle and at one with his untouched environment, took pity on these infant-like religious refuges and showed them the ropes.
I know that's the story I heard...
But it really not how it all went down...
The beginning of the story we were taught in school works out, these Jesus freaks chased out of every corner of Europe; their brand of prudish living abhorred all over the Mother Continent. And they landed on Plymouth Rock, just as the story in school says, too late in the year to plant any crops of restock their dwindling provisions...
And that first winter was a rough one, with half of the Pilgrims dying of exposure and starvation.
But the snow melted and out of their hovels the Pilgrims crawled out, worse for wear but free from those damned Europeans giving them the stink eye for their style of worship, and (Led by their Governor, a stiff spined man by the name of William Bradford) met the challenge of building a new world.
During their trip over, the hundred plus courageous people who signed on for this suicide trip had made an agreement as to how their new society would look; settling on a very Christ like model of collectivist existence (with Bradford overlooking everything as Governor). Everyone worked for the whole, that was the idea... Just like Jesus taught.
And that first year was just a mess, with non-existent morale breaking the already struggling colonists and low crops being stored for the coming brutal winter that-if not met properly- would spell doom for the rest of them... It turned out, as history has shown time and time and time still, people really hate working for other people for free.
Bradford wrote this in his diary, expressing as much:
"...The experience that we had in this common course and condition tried sundry years...that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing -- as if they were wiser than God... For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense... that was thought injustice... Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products...This had very good sucess for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been..."
So he scrapped the commune bullshit, handed everyone a plot of land to do with what they would, and left it to the yearning of the human spirit to see them through. And it was a hard go... Breaking savage lands tends to be (Remember, there wasn't shit here when they arrived. The were starting from scratch). And things flourished. They had crops, with enough to spare to start trading with the Red Man (who was a friend to the White Devil, setting up trade with their neighbors, only to eventually be repaid for their naive kindness by being chased off his land... But more on that another day). They were also able to send crops, furs, and goods back to Europe; the profits from these goods enough to pay off their debt from their voyage to the London merchants that backed them as well as serving as enticing bait for more Puritans and rebels alike to join them; freedom and wealth starved Europeans dreaming of more hearing the first time news of promise coming from a New World where previous attempts to colonize were met in tragedy.
And it was after that year... Once Bradford and the Colonists reorganized their society from an unproductive commune into a thriving free market of individuals collectively rising everyone's tide as each did his best for him and his family... That the Colonists (joined by their friends, the noble savages who did in fact give them that helping hand initially) had themselves a grand old feast following the bountiful harvest that their new "every man for himself" system had produced; thanking their strict Puritan God for the wisdom to change their system to better establish a functioning and growing colony.
So this year... As you wonder why you're sitting there listening to your uncle goes on and on about how the Cowboys really have a shot this year as you both wait for overcooked bird and canned red slime... Take some time to remember the lessons of those first Pilgrims... How it wasn't until they ditched those lofty utopian fallacies of collective living and universal bliss and embraced the idea of an individual's efforts dictating his results and the free market principles of private ownership and a fair wage for work and goods that they found personal contentment and a thriving colony.
Perhaps this might be a lesson we should all reflect upon on this day, given the messes we- as a nation- are currently finding ourselves in… couldn't hurt, anyway…
In closing, I leave you with the sage words of George Washington, given two hundred and twenty five years ago, as he so inspiredly dedicated this day:
"... And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions -- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually -- to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed -- to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn [sic] kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord -- To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease [sic] of science among them and us -- and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best..."
Happy Thanksgiving, friends.