Time For The War On…Thanksgiving?

Yep, if you thought the right-wing’s recently-founded tradition of wailing about how the 78% of Americans who consider themselves Christian are oppressed and under attack, especially at Christmastime, was nutso, you’re going to just looove the even-newer “War On Thanksgiving™.”

You heard me right. Courtesy of this weekend’s New York Times, Happy Thanksgiving, you lazy, turkey-scarfing socialist bastards:

Forget what you learned about the first Thanksgiving being a celebration of a bountiful harvest, or an expression of gratitude to the Indians who helped the Pilgrims through those harsh first months in an unfamiliar land. In the Tea Party view of the holiday, the first settlers were actually early socialists. They realized the error of their collectivist ways and embraced capitalism, producing a bumper year, upon which they decided that it was only right to celebrate the glory of the free market and private property.

You see, according to the tea party (revisionist) historians,

…the pilgrims who came to Plymouth established a communal system, where all had to pool whatever they hunted or grew on their lands. Because they could not reap the fruits of their labors, no one had any incentive to work, and the system failed — confusion, thievery and famine ensued.

Finally, the governor of the colony, William Bradford, abolished this system and gave each household a parcel of land. With private property to call their own, the Pilgrims were suddenly very industrious and found themselves with more corn than they knew what to do with. So they invited the Indians over to celebrate.

I’ll wait until your head stops throbbing from banging it into your desk. Ok…there. Feel better? Well…sorry, but things aren’t exactly going to go uphill from here. The actual historians-‘n’-stuff who, you know, study this period say it’s utter nonsense (I know, big surprise, right?):

…the settlers in Plymouth, and their supporters in England, did indeed agree to hold their property in common — William Bradford, the governor, referred to it in his writings as the “common course.” But the plan was in the interest of realizing a profit sooner, and was only intended for the short term; historians say the Pilgrims were more like shareholders in an early corporation than subjects of socialism.

“It was directed ultimately to private profit,” said Richard Pickering, a historian of early America and the deputy director of Plimoth Plantation, a museum devoted to keeping the Pilgrims’ story alive.

Interviewed by the Times, Karen Ordahl Kupperman, a historian at New York University and the author of “The Jamestown Project,” said “To call it socialism is wildly inaccurate,” and pithily put it in a modern context: “it was a contracted company, and everybody worked for the company. I mean, is Halliburton a socialist scheme?”

Even beyond the inconvenience posed by the historical record which shows that the original colonies were organized much more like shareholders of a corporation than any kind of socialist venture pretty much negating the entire thrust of the revisionist tea partiers’ agenda, there’s an even larger hurdle for their story: it isn’t factually true, either. Remember, in the above tea-party-endorsed retelling of the Thanksgiving story, the pilgrims originally starved under their ill-conceived “socialist” organizational structure, and only started doing well after they abandoned their evil, socialist ways and unleashed teh magical powerz of teh free marketz and personal ‘nitiative. Sadly, no. Mr. Pickering points out:

The arrangement did not produce famine. If it had, Bradford would not have declared the three days of sport and feasting in 1621 that became known as the first Thanksgiving. “The celebration would never have happened if the harvest was going to be less than enough to get them by,” Mr. Pickering said. “They would have saved it and rationed it to get by.”

But do you think that’s stopped guys like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh? You ought to know better than that by now. And now, thanks to teh internets, zombie lies like this one, once they have been re-fanned into full flame by cynical money-grubbers with an agenda like Beck and Limbaugh, will never truly die. They will exist forever out there in cyberspace, ready to trap whoever floats into their orbit and either can’t think critically or doesn’t know (or refuses to check) history.

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