It’s that time of year again. It’s time to eat enough turkey and dressing to feed the victims of Sandy and Katrina combined. It’s time to wonder why anyone thinks topping sweet potatoes with marshmallows is a good idea. It’s time to fall asleep on the couch while the Lions lose and the Cowboys (hopefully also) lose. It’s time to hit the rack early so we can wake up early enough for a good place in line at Best Buy on Black Friday. And lest I forget: It’s time to give thanks for those we love, that which we have and this free Nation in which we are so blessed to live.
But, as is so often the case with holidays from the patriotic to the religious, there’s always someone who wants to poop on the proverbial parade. Thanksgiving, traditionally associated with a sort of idyllic multicultural fairy tale, is now regarded by many college professors, vegan hippies and face-in-the-crowd losers as an ersatz celebration of genocide and religious repression. Every year, those same ivory-tower eggheads, rotting beatniks and permanently outraged nobodies ramp down from their courtroom hand-wringing over Fourth of July commemorations and warm up for their annual assaults on fire station Christmas trees and city hall nativity scenes by shrieking like crack-addled teenagers about the evils of the “real” Thanksgiving. But their outrage is predictably misplaced.
Thanksgiving isn’t a celebration of the near-extermination of Squanto and his pals any more than it’s a celebration of shoes with buckles and stupid hats. In fact, to most Americans Thanksgiving is a celebration of being annoyed by your mother-in-law and tryptophan-induced comas. Much like Easter and even Christmas, the “real” reason for the season has disappeared behind a veneer of Peeps and shopping mall Santas.
While I’m not as obsessed with wallowing in historical pain like the liberals who have yet to thumb past the next chapter in one of those weird Howard Zinn manifestos, I am a student of history. And I’m willing to acknowledge that a little perspective never hurt anyone.
The year was 1620. A small group of men and women, tired of the societal and religious scene in 17th century England and Holland, boarded a ship headed for the New World. The Pilgrims, as they’ve come to be known, were hardly the blue-blooded upper crust of New England society that their descendants define today. In fact, they were a pretty miserable group. Members of the Puritan evolution of Calvinism, they believed in “total depravity,” meaning they believed that the fall of man pretty much doomed us all. To put a finer point on it, they were not a fun bunch at a party. After all, no one ever uses the word “puritanical” when they’re describing their wacky neighbors. These people were aggressively dour. They were hard on their contemporaries and hard on themselves. No booze, no music, no dancing. But compared with some modern day sects, the Pilgrims are hardly the only sad-face game in town. I think we’d all rather spend endless hours torturing ourselves over minor spiritual infractions than give up bacon, force women to wear burkhas and tailor our suicide bomb vests.
Of course, Thanksgiving isn’t a celebration of the actual Pilgrims. There is no way retail chains could work self-flagellation and scurvy into a marketing campaign. Nor is it a celebration of the ridiculous tableau of Pilgrims and Wampanoags sitting down to a long table covered in gourds and maize, because that never happened.
Thanksgiving is a manufactured holiday. Its current date, the fourth Thursday in November, wasn’t even fixed until President Franklin Roosevelt marked it off the national calendar in 1941. In truth, it’s not even in the right season. In November of 1620, the Pilgrims were cold, tired and starving. The only “thanks” being given involved things like, “I give thanks for not having typhus.” And, of course, the “Pilgrims” have benefitted greatly from a backstory that has been exaggerated nearly as wildly as President Barack Obama’s bona fides.
But all that is immaterial. Why join the frozen-in-time liberals in anti-Holiday outrage? Why whine about a crappy time nearly four centuries past? Why ruin the party? Why not spend this year simply giving thanks? Give thanks for the food, for the family or just for the football. Give thanks that you live in a country that allows you to think, to speak and to read whatever you wish.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.