Thanksgiving in Context, with Pie

Thanksgiving, a time for football, pie, family gatherings, seconds of pie, and, oh yes, giving thanks to our Creator for the many blessings bestowed upon us and our country.

These are not great times for many. But, truth is, whatever our portion, we are blessed to live as we do.

The practice of Thanksgiving comes from Plymouth Colony which did not have enough food to feed half its colonists. The Wampanoag Indians helped the Pilgrims by providing maize, seeds, and teaching them to fish. The 1621 “thanksgiving” occurred after the resulting good harvest.

How ironic, today, that Thanksgiving is followed by Black Friday. A day dedicated to peace, sharing, and gratitude is followed by a day dedicated to selfish, aggressive, grabby shopping.

Charles Mann in his new book “1491” tells us this irony is rooted in our history. Soon after the first Thanksgiving, land-grabbing new colonists drove the Wampanoag and other New England Indians out of their historic coastal lands. Mann says colonists saw this as “divine providence” for God’s people to roust out “marginal people.”

The purpose of this column is not to recount the long, tragic history of the white man’s land grabs and decimation of Indian nations. But, I think it only fair to view Thanksgiving in context.

Peace, sharing, and gratitude no more describes us than greedy, warmongering, conquerors. We, and our ancestors, are and have been both. Days like Thanksgiving help us think that we display more of the peace, sharing, and gratitude side. Many among us do. But the few do not describe the many. And, the many seem conflicted.

From the Tea Party and Occupy movements to random demented killings to long-term unemployment, we see evidence of discontent. The bitter, political stalemate in Washington reflects this discontent. It seems that all sides claim the high ground, but actually work best in the lower realms.

The lesson from Mann’s book is not a new one, but an appropriate one. He says cultures see history as they most want to see it, not necessarily the truth of it.

We see what we want to see, not what really is.

Today, there are many in the lower realms ready and well-funded to help us see what they want us to see. Get sucked in long enough, and their point of view becomes yours.

So, this week, I extend my thanks to newspapers. They are the one information vehicle left that doesn’t suck you into one point of view. Their editorials may be biased, but columns and letters to the editor provide other points of view.

Folks, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. are no substitute for newspapers. Not if you want an informed public underlying your democratic republic.

Now, where is that pie?

(Bill Crawford, a Mayflower descendant, does not accept pay for his syndicated column.)

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