Summary: Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, whose history is rich with insights. Unfortunately, we ignore these – stripping away its depth and mystery. Here is a start to regaining what we have lost and making Thanksgiving special again.
I have spent a decade attempting to find the root causes of our weakness. One such is that we have lost touch with our history, and are like plants cut from their roots. Good and bad, we are the products of our past – the decisions made by previous generations of Americans. They built a great nation, one with the potential to help America lead humanity into a better future. I doubt if we can do so without recapturing our past. Thanksgiving is a great day to begin, with so much to teach us.
The standard Thanksgiving story is half fiction. Conservatives have ladled on more fictional elements, as in Rush Limbaugh’s ‘The True Story of Thanksgiving.” It’s about capitalism vs. socialism! This politically useful narrative has been debunked many times. My two favorites …
- “Rush Limbaugh’s ‘The True Story of Thanksgiving‘ is a lie-filled load of stuffing that turns villains into victims” by Ben Norton at Salon – “Tea Party Thanksgiving mythology bludgeons socialism with lies while covering up capitalists’ genocide of Natives.”
- The most famous debunking is “The Pilgrims Were …Socialists?” by Kate Zernike in the New York Times.
But there are deeper levels to the Thanksgiving story, rich with insights about our strange history. To better understand Thanksgiving, start with Scott Alexander’s brilliant “The Story Of Thanksgiving Is A Science-Fiction Story.” He says that “the proper genre for Thanksgiving is science-fiction.” Here is his introduction to the story.
“Mr. S, an ordinary American, is minding his own business outside his East Coast home when he is suddenly abducted by short, large-headed creatures from another world. They bring him to their ship and voyage across unimaginable distances to an alien empire both grander and more horrible than he could imagine. The aliens have godlike technologies, but their society is dystopian and hivelike. Enslaved at first, then displayed as a curiosity, he finally wins his freedom through pluck and intelligence. Despite the luxuries he enjoys in his new life, he longs for his homeworld. He befriends a local noble who tells him that the aliens in fact send ships to his world on a regular basis, quietly scouting and seeking resources while the inhabitants remain blissfully unaware of these incursions. He gets passage on such an expedition.
“Before his ship gets far, he is abducted and sold into slavery again, only to be rescued by a sect of alien priests who believe he may hold the key to saving his entire race. They are kind to him and ask him to stay, but when he refuses they reluctantly arrange his passage home.
“Yet when he returns, Mr. S finds a postapocalyptic wasteland utterly unlike the world he left. America is empty, its great cities gone, a few survivors fighting for scraps among the ruins. 95% of the population is dead, slain by a supervirus unlike any doctors have ever seen. …He finds the site where his hometown once stood. There is nothing. …”
The amazing aspect of this story is that it tells the real story of early 17th century New England. For the history, see Charles C. Mann’s superbly told account in the Smithsonian Magazine: “Native Intelligence” – “The Indians who first feasted with the English colonists were far more sophisticated than you were taught in school; but that wasn’t enough to save them.”
These are stories well-worth reading on Thanksgiving. But few will. Instead of history, we now prefer equally bogus tales that flatter the political interests of our elites.
A fine example is “An American Thanksgiving Story Without Any Heroes” by Tyler Cowen (prof economics at George Mason U) at Bloomberg – “When it comes to the treatment of Native Americans, the U.S. doesn’t have much to be proud of.” A superficial look places it in the popular “my ancestors weren’t as wonderful as I am” genre. We stand on their shoulders and criticize their lowly views. How sad that the pilgrims had the same “might makes right” ethics as almost everybody did in the 17th century.
More interesting is that a conservative like Cowen joins this popular leftist narrative. It shows how both Left and Right seek to delegitimize the Republic. Neither has any interest in our traditions, or the love of self-rule and liberty that were their finest expressions.
We have great wealth, so few Americans have experienced hunger (two-thirds of Americans are over-weight or obese, with a higher fraction among the poor). We should give thanks for what we might lose. This year, let’s give thanks for our political regime and the Constitution on which it rests. From these things have come our domestic peace and prosperity. They were unearned gifts to us from previous generations of Americans. Let’s do whatever necessary to preserve them for future Americans.
For More Information
Other articles about the history of Thanksgiving.
- About Edward Winslow, from whom comes almost all we know about the Pilgrim’s first Thanksgiving.
- The first Thanksgiving in North America was held in Virginia. Other than those by the Spaniards, French Huguenots and English colonies in Maine.
- Looking back on USMC thanksgivings, reminding us of things for which we should be grateful.
- Let’s give thanks for America’s luck, and try to deserve it!
- For Thanksgiving, Walmart shows us the New America.
- Make this a special Thanksgiving: take a first and easy step to reforming America.
- Lies about Thanksgiving have consequences. That we’re so easily fooled has even more.
- Have a different Thanksgiving conversation with the family about politics.
- Debunking a right-wing myth about Thanksgiving.
- Another reason to give thanks on Thanksgiving.
Learn about the lost foundation of America
By Tim LaHaye, an evangelical minister and author of 85 books (fiction and nonfiction).
From the publisher …
“What faith did our founding fathers truly believe and practice in their daily lives, and what does it really matter for us? Were they God-fearing, Bible-believing Christians or simply enlightened Deists, Transcendentalists, and Unitarians?
“Today the debate rages on, becoming a polarizing cultural issue, the outcome of which will lead to a vastly different nation in the years ahead. This probing study dovers the key points.
- Examines the facts that have created debate for years among educators, scholars, and historians
- Studies the intimate papers, diaries, and letters of the founders themselves
- Helps solve this mystery of our nation’s past so that we can best guide its future.
“Meticulously documented, Faith of Our Founding Fathers by best-selling author Tim LaHaye details the Christian principles of these early Americans, and notes how the argument for the separation of church and state has led us to the vast secularization of our culture. Studying the original writings of those who shaped this nation will help Christians present the case for renewing the former vision for this great country.”