So as we approach the holiday…somebody’s holiday, I thought I’d do something entertaining. All of my ideas got nixed with vague mutterings of “public indecency…Sir…” so that leaves me with prose and pictures.
I always have mixed feelings about Thanksgiving. It’s true I have a tremendous amount to be Thankful for. But…why do I have to be Thankful about it November 25?
Mostly it’s the religious overtones…I’m not big on religion but we knew that.
I was told in school that it was because the Puritans did it, so that just doesn’t put Thanksgiving up on my list of favorite holidays.
The celebrators of the First Thanksgiving weren’t just Puritans, they were Separatists. Separatists were to Puritans what Jesse Helms was to Republicans.
There were many reasons for coming to the New World. For many Scots-Irish and Continental Europeans it meant a chance to own land, to live free, to get out from under crushing poverty or generations old land-slavery. For the younger sons of Jamestown it meant a chance to make a name for themselves. For the vast majority of English who came as indentured servants it was a chance for a remission of debt, or simply to learn a new craft/trade/service and enter life with references and money and a chance to marry.
The Separatists were fairly well off – economically they were mostly priviliged members of a wealthy class that could afford bribes and patronage. And they didn’t flee England for Religious freedom in America. They fled England for Religious freedom in Amsterdam in 1608. Where they found it. In abundance. These people weren’t poor. They made good livings as tradesmen in Leiden, and John Robinson actually bought an estate so that the more rural members could make a living.
Their colony failed largely because the Dutch weren’t enthusiastic about a bunch of anal-retentive English religious fanatics, and their younger members were peeling off and either going home or becoming culturally Dutch. Amsterdam then was the equivalent of Amsterdam now.
So they fled religious freedom in Amsterdam to come to the U.S. where they could raise their children in their own anal-retentive fashion, if they happened not to die of privation in the meantime. An inspiring example to parents ever since. The Puritans got along famously with the Indians while they were starving and less than a generation later butchered the Wapanoag pretty thoroughly after taking all their land.
And that’s not all Thanksgiving has to recommend it. It was largely forgotten about a name for a regional harvest festival. Other places held harvest home, homecoming, etc. Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving largely for political purposes during the Civil War, on several occasions, including 1863.
A side confession…as a Virginian I tend to agree with Historians who have the cheek to suggest the Civil War need not have been fought. I don’t agree with involuntary slavery, but there’s a fairly good case to suggest that allowing the country to dissolve into war on both sides was a terrible idea, and that abolition in the middle of a bloody internecine conflict led to many of the problems with integration that exist to this day. Just to be clear, I blame southern extremists more for provking a fight, but a real look at the situation paints Lincoln as a political naif who did little more than play the bitter hand of cards he was dealt, not particularly brilliantly, then die before he could be proven incompetent to govern in peacetime.
Context for November 1863….the Union won a huge but fantastically costly victory in Gettysburg in September, but was being forced to enact tremendously unpopular Draft Laws, which provoked riots in New York in July (see “Gangs of New York” for a modern portrayal).
Since Gettysburg (which merely drove out a Confederate invading force) the news had been fairly bad. A bloody defeat at Chickamauga, and a campaign that was stagnating badly in Chattanooga, with no evidence yet that Ulyssees Grant would emerge (as he did) to save the day.
Nowadays we’d be saying “quagmire” and questioning why we had troops in Chattanooga. And George McClellan was doing just that as he geared up his 1864 Presidential Bid. Hard as it is to believe of the man who appears on the Five, Lincoln’s days looked numbered. McClellan was widely expected to crush Lincoln and the latter’s “Day of Thanksgiving” amounted to “declaring victory” at the end of a muddy campaign season, and declaring that “God was on his side.”
So…no great love for Thanksgiving. That said, people have celebrated Harvest Festivals for ten thousand years or so, and I don’t suppose it matters what you call it. It is a time to give thanks, however much one doesn’t care for long forgotten political gambits, or Puritan morality.
It’s Harvest Home, and time for drawing in and thinking about the good things we have and forgiving the sins of the past, possibly even Puritans, and people who spilled blood to enslave their fellow man or maintain political ideals against all costs and reason. I’ll have people I love and care for around me, and that is a thing to be thankful for.
So…after that heavy note, a little light entertainment…
First…a contest…driving to work this morning
Liscense Plate: TPLS SWD
So…honestly WTF? “Topless Sword” was what immediately came to mind. Kthxpls? Any suggestions. I’m stumped. It’s probably obvious and I’m not thinking straight but I cannot for the life of me figure out this plate and miranda, who is fluent in LOL couldn’t either.
And, S. suggests “if you don’t think BDSM is Mainstream…check this out.” I shall now have Adam Lambert and Lady GaGa in the house.
Though I do have to admit the latest Lady GaGa video is pretty cool if only for the cinema homages.