The Real Story of Thanksgiving

I thought I’d share this from Rush Limbaugh’s show on Tuesday. We are so damned fortumate to be living in this country. I give thanks to all those who agree, and pray for an epiphany for those who don’t.

Okay, time for the real story of Thanksgiving. I want to precede this by sharing with you — and I want to bounce off of our last call, Suzie. Sometimes she has trouble being optimistic. Now, I don’t know that this would qualify as something about which you can run around and feel really optimistic about. Something struck me the other day. (It strikes me a lot, by the way.) I went to a dinner party on Friday night, and it was a buffet here where I live before I had to go over to the Breakers Hotel and introduce Ann Coulter and give her an award for David Horowitz’s Restoration Weekend. There were a lot of people at this bash, and walking through the buffet and looking at all of the food, the shrimp, all the vegetables and everything, the desserts, it just struck me.

I started flashing back to my trip to Afghanistan. I saw some of the most unbelievable human living conditions I have ever seen, and I can tell you for a fact that the number of average Afghanis who eat food in the way we take for granted is just astoundingly high. We hear all day long pessimistic stories about shortages of this or that, we’re going to deplete the oceans of all edible fish in 30 years or whatever the hell stupid notion it was, and we’ve been hearing these kinds of stories for years, that we’re destroying species. It always amazes me when I actually stop to think about it. Just visit a grocery store. Imagine how many grocery stores there are in this country. Look at the food production in this country alone, and look at the relative cheap price that food is in grocery stores.

You can find high priced items in there, but bare essentials, market basket prices. People have to eat. There’s not a whole lot of room for price gouging there unless you go to gourmet places and that kind of thing, but even at that, they’re available, if you want it. The amount of food that is produced in this country, the plenty of it, is astounding, when you stop to think that wherever you are, in your one grocery store or at your restaurant when you’re having dinner, imagine millions of such places, with the same stuff, and then put it all in somebody’s home, where they’re having Thanksgiving or what have you, or in restaurants or whatever, it’s just astounding to me. The ability of the earth to produce and provide all this, against all these predictions that we’re going to starve or going to have a famine, that the population explosion is going to wipe out all of these luxuries and opportunities.

It’s just… I don’t know. Sometimes it just blows me away, because I don’t have anything to do with producing it. There are people that do, and I’m just in awe. When you asked me why I am optimistic and so forth, it’s because I am in awe of the country. Compared to the rest of the world and compared to the attacks that we endure and even our own internal bottles of people in this country that hate this country, still look at it, look at it, if you want just from the bare essentials. Look at how many automobiles there are in a used car lot, look at how many automobiles there are in junkyards. Those are the cars in junkyards that are being driven around in places like Afghanistan or Cuba, anywhere else. We’re just spoiled I think in so many areas that just the basics are often so taken for granted that their value in what they represent is overlooked on occasion.

We can even satisfy oddballs that don’t want to eat meat or who don’t want to eat fish, whatever your culinary peculiarities are, somebody’s out there making sure that you can get what you want, even with all the assaults on the food business that there have been. Anyway, leads me to the real story of Thanksgiving as written by me in my book “See, I Told You So!” We’re on Chapter Six here: “Dead White Guys or What Your History Books Never Told You,” page 70.

On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. It carried a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims led by William Bradford. On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement, a contract, that established just and equal laws for all members of the new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Where did the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact come from? From the Bible. The Pilgrims were a people completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. They looked to the ancient Israelites for their example. And, because of the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work.

“But this was no pleasure cruise, friends. The journey to the New World was a long and arduous one. And when the Pilgrims landed in New England in November, they found, according to Bradford’s detailed journal, a cold, barren, desolate wilderness,” destined to become the home of the Kennedy family. “There were no friends to greet them, he wrote. There were no houses to shelter them. There were no inns where they could refresh themselves. And the sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims – including Bradford’s own wife – died of either starvation, sickness or exposure.

“When spring finally came, Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod and skin beavers for coats.” Yes, it was Indians that taught the white man how to skin beasts. “Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper! This is important to understand because this is where modern American history lessons often end. “Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives, rather than as a devout expression of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testaments. Here is the part [of Thanksgiving] that has been omitted: The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share.

“All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belong to the community as well. They were going to distribute it equally. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belonged to the community as well. Nobody owned anything. They just had a share in it. It was a commune, folks. It was the forerunner to the communes we saw in the ’60s and ’70s out in California – and it was complete with organic vegetables, by the way. Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter, which had taken so many lives. He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace.

“That’s right. Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn’t work! Surprise, surprise, huh? What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation! But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years – trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it – the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild’s history lesson. If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future.

“‘The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years…that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God,’ Bradford wrote. ‘For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense…that was thought injustice.’ Why should you work for other people when you can’t work for yourself? What’s the point?

“Do you hear what he was saying, ladies and gentlemen? The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford’s community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property. Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result? ‘This had very good success,’ wrote Bradford, ‘for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.’ Bradford doesn’t sound like much of a…” I wrote “Clintonite” then. He doesn’t sound much like a liberal Democrat, “does he? Is it possible that supply-side economics could have existed before the 1980s? Yes.

“Read the story of Joseph and Pharaoh in Genesis 41. Following Joseph’s suggestion (Gen 41:34), Pharaoh reduced the tax on Egyptians to 20% during the ‘seven years of plenty’ and the ‘Earth brought forth in heaps.’ (Gen. 41:47) In no time, the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could eat themselves…. So they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians. The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London. And the success and prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans and began what came to be known as the ‘Great Puritan Migration.'” Now, other than on this program every year, have you heard this story before? Is this lesson being taught to your kids today — and if it isn’t, why not?

Can you think of a more important lesson one could derive from the pilgrim experience? So in essence there was, thanks to the Indians, because they taught us how to skin beavers and how to plant corn when we arrived, but the real Thanksgiving was thanking the Lord for guidance and plenty — and once they reformed their system and got rid of the communal bottle and started what was essentially free market capitalism, they produced more than they could possibly consume, and they invited the Indians to dinner, and voila, we got Thanksgiving, and that’s what it was: inviting the Indians to dinner and giving thanks for all the plenty is the true story of Thanksgiving. The last two-thirds of this story simply are not told.

Now, I was just talking about the plenty of this country and how I’m awed by it. You can go to places where there are famines, and we usually get the story, “Well, look it, there are deserts, well, look it, Africa, I mean there’s no water and nothing but sand and so forth.” It’s not the answer, folks. Those people don’t have a prayer because they have no incentive. They live under tyrannical dictatorships and governments. The problem with the world is not too few resources. The problem with the world is an insufficient distribution of capitalism.

11 thoughts on “The Real Story of Thanksgiving”

  1. George,

    I’m not quite sure what this post is all about, or what Rush is getting at – I had a hard time reading through the whole thing. Me, I’m a single mother, I work hard for the money, actually I work hard to survive. I work hard just to keep my kids in their school (okay, I grant you, they’re in a christian (private school), to buy groceries that now cost me twice as much as a few years ago. I understand that there are others worse off, others in the world that starve and never have enough to eat. But I’m busting a gut to be able to feed my children. Yes, there are families what would be happy to be able to feed their children macaroni and cheese, but after working as I do and paying the taxes I pay, insurance for home, car, health insurance, I would like to ocassinaly be able to feed them some of those thick steaks on the BBQ that their friends eat. It may sound Like I’m complaining, but truly I’m thankful that I can do what I do. This truly is the greatest country on the face of the earth, but jeeez, give me a break somewhere. I’m doing the right thing here. Where’s the justice?

    And how sick is this, here it is Thanksgiving and we’re postig comments on Babalu. Oh well, I hope you’ve all had a wonderful day, free of all the usual family dynamics that drive us crazy.


  2. Nydia,

    Hang in there … it will all work out … and take a pause to appreciate all you have accomplished as a single parent. WOW!What a blessing in itself!

    I’m sharing a short motivational piece by Ralph Marston … I hope you like.

    I wish you well 🙂 Melek


    “What you have”

    Sit beneath a magnificent oak tree, and realize that everything the tree has ever needed, has come to it. The nourishing food, minerals, water and sunlight, all have been flowing past the tree, or within its reach, for the entire life of the tree. Though by its growth it has reached out, not once has the tree had to go anywhere to get what it needed.

    The tree grows and prospers by its ability to make use of what’s available, right where it is. The strong, towering, enduring tree has accomplished its impressive growth by simply using what it has.

    The next time you feel you have to go somewhere, or get something or struggle in some way, in order to be happy, or in order to accomplish something, think of the mighty oak tree.

    It is wonderful that you can move about, and that you can cause so much to happen. Yet in all your doing and going and getting, don’t neglect what you already have. Richness and fulfillment come not from simply getting more, but from making full use of what you have.


  3. Thanks Melek, I needed that. Funny, I’ve always equated mothers with being a tough old tree stump and you respond with this. That was inspirational.

    I feel so bad about this happening with Varela.

    His family must be devastated, my heart goes out to him and his loved ones.

    Carino to you and yours.


  4. Rush at a buffet. Hard to imagine that coincidence.

    Rush is an entertainer, not an epiphany generator. That’s why I can’t make out his point. Is it that we should be grateful for what we have (we should), or that we should blame environmentalists for being down? Or is Rush’s point that he can’t make a point without sticking it to the “wacky liberal ideology”?

  5. The point is that capitalism creates wealth. Socialism does not.

    Further, what the poor countries of the world need is economic and political reform — they need more capitalism, not less. When people get to keep what they make, they make more than they need. They create wealth. When they have to hand everything over to the government in the form of taxes, then what’s the incentive to work?

  6. “When people get to keep what they make, they make more than they need?”

    Excuse me, but again let me say that I WORK HARD FOR THE MONEY. I have a 94 year old grandmother that came to this country and worked in a factory all her life sewing zippers, at what, 5 cents a piece, that’s right piece work. And now she laying in a bed, both legs amputated, a result of diabetis, and just plain old “vieja”. The reality is that if I abandoned her she would be put in a nursing home, they would take over her small social security check and the government would pay for the rest of the $3,000 plus amount it would cost to keep her there. Yet, I cannot claim on my taxes the cost to care for her, $180 a week to pay for an illegal immigrant to come in and take care of her so I CAN GO TO WORK every single day and support my two children and her and not be a burden on the government. Where’s the justice in that. I can’t afford to pay someone legally, to pay their social security and federal taxes, no one wants that job. It would pay too little for them to be interested in coming in and cleaning her Ass and all the feces splurting out all over the bed every single day. Are there any of you out there dealing with these things on a daily basis. I notice a lot of you on this blog are men, and I can guarantee that none of you will be doing this job for your own mothers, it’s going to be your wives that le van ha estar limpiando el culo a sus madres. No matter how much you love your abuela or mother, have you yet to deal with this situation? Abandon her? I think not. That’s not how we were raised, to abandon our elders. But this is a difficult situation and one that all of you will have to deal with. I’m a life time registered Republican. But this is has to stop somewhere. I’m not asking the government to subsidize what I do as “una nieta buena”, I just want a break somewhere. Do my children need to sacrifice, do their needs have to be sacrificed so that I can keep taking care of her? She put her time in, she never had any sort of monetary assistance, whether welfare or unemployment, from this government. But now she’s old and crippled and she’s a useless old bag. Most of these people did hand everything over to the government. They were happy to do it. Now what? They’re screwed and so are we, their caretakers, unless of course we’re unos ricachones, in which case it doesn’t matter. We, those of us holding up this country, those of us in the minority, those of us who do all shit work, this country needs to give us a break, because without us this country can’t function. I have on numerous occasions explained to my kids how grateful we need to be of the guys who come by and take away our garbage. If it wasn’t for them how would we dispose of the filth we create every day in our homes. These people need to be respected, just like mi abuelito use to always give them a few bucks during the Christmas holidays and a six pack on others, and always had a wave and a smile for them in the mornings. We’re becoming a country that only admires and give the benefits to the Chiefs and looks down on the Indians. Well it’s the indians that keeps this country’s capitalism going. Without them we are nothing.

  7. One more coment, I know this blog is mainly about Cuba, but these are also issues that affect us Cubans – we’re now reaching the age where it is our responsibilty to care for our parents and grandparents – these are important issues.

  8. Hi Nydia,

    I meant no offense by what I wrote. I was actually responding to Lesly and her comment about “wacky liberal ideology.” It is that wacky liberal ideology that keeps people poor. I lived in Chile for two years and saw that no matter how hard the poor worked, they stayed poor. A cab driver in Morocco told me that he knows how people get rich in America — they work. “Here,” he told me, “you work and work and work and still you stay poor.”

    Yes, I know we still have very hard-working people in this country who can’t seem to get ahead, but here it is possible to move from poverty to the middle class to wealth. My grandparents were farmers who didn’t go past 8th grade. My parents were the first ones in their families to go to college. I was the first of 29 grandchildren to go to college. (Curiously, I am also the only one who is unemployed. Hmmm.) You are doing the best you can to ensure that your children have a better life than you do — that’s the American way!

    You are indeed working very hard and it seems you have been given a very tough set of circumstances to handle. I hope that things get better in your life.

  9. Class Factomum,

    No offense taken. On the contrary. I just want all of those out there to take another view of the dynamics taking place in our country today. I have a dad and grandparents and half brothers and sisters in Cuba. I feel for them. I know and feel deeply the tragedies they’re going through. But I can’t help them. I also have a life to live. I really admire all the bloggers on this site. They are doing a truly wonderful job. They are bringing to life the tragedy of our families in Cuba, but sometimes they ignore the very travesty of life that is the reality of the Cubans here, today, in this moment. And really, George, Val, you’re not even commenting on this travesty. I may not be as enlightened or as intelligent as both of your are, I may not have the commitment to the Cuban cause as you have, but HELLO say something.


  10. Nydia
    You are a very hard-working woman and your family must be very grateful to you.

    But I think that the point of the article was not the fact that you have to work real hard to make a living. It is the fact that because there is economic and political freedom in the US, if you work real hard you can make a living, while in other countries where these freedoms do not exist (such as Cuba), if you work real hard you won’t make a living and you will be as miserable as the day before.

  11. qbanartemisa, you’re absolutely right. I agree with what you say. And believe me way back when I was 20-something and I fell in love with a lovely Brazilian (who of course was expecting me to marry him and move to Brazil I rejected that possiblity, because I figured if my mother made the sacrifices she did to live in this country then I was not going to give it up to live a country that only God could predict what it would end up as). But there are some things that are wrong with out country now that we need to help to fix, and just like way back when during other times of trouble in our country we need to fight to make them right to make sure that everyone gets a piece of the pie, protionally, according to their contribution and their education. But, fundamentally, I agree with your opinion.


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